Cavani saves Manchester United draw as Newcastle show new fight | premier league
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For much of the evening, Ralf Rangnick’s scowl suggested the Manchester United manager was suffering from severe toothaches. Instead of following the supposed script and pushing Newcastle into submission, Rangnick’s rambling side were often separated by Allan Saint-Maximin’s attacking maneuvers and Joelinton’s excellence in midfielder.
Although Edinson Cavani came off the bench to save a point for United, the period between Saint-Maximin’s opener in the seventh minute and the Uruguayan’s equalizer in the 71st minute was likely one of the interludes the least comfortable techniques of Rangnick.
After doing his tactics so well for so long, Eddie Howe deserved to see his side record a transformative victory, but many of a packed house at St James’ Park will have left believing, however unlikely, that relegation can still be avoided. Granted, Newcastle have won only once all season, but Rangnick had to thank David De Gea for retaining a point that leaves United seventh, seven points behind Arsenal, fourth.
While an amalgamation of Covid and injuries dictated Howe was able to name just eight substitutes, including two goalkeepers, his technical counterpart fielded an at least theoretically formidable starting XI for United’s opener. in more than two weeks.
Some observers suspected that this Covid-induced breakup could turn out to be a blessing in disguise but, in reality, United quickly turned out to be alarmingly rusty.
When Raphaël Varane turned in an unusually heavy way he lost the ball to Sean Longstaff and in the blink of an eye Saint-Maximin had the ball on his feet and passed all three scorers including Harry Maguire.
For a moment it looked like the Frenchman had delayed his shot for too long, but instead Saint-Maximin was just choosing his place in the top corner of the goal. As the ball imperiously curved past a helpless De Gea, even Cristiano Ronaldo looked impressed.
Perhaps revealing, Howe had addressed mild criticisms of the slightly irrelevant Saint-Maximin last week, and the former Nice winger appeared on a mission to prove a point. This left Maguire, Varane and company struggling to cope with their devastating and completely destructive change of pace.
The results may have been disappointing since Howe took over from Steve Bruce, but the newcomer’s man handling certainly brought out the best in a seemingly reinvented Joelinton. Operating again in the heart of the midfielder rather than a center-forward, the Brazilian was delighted to repeatedly dispossess a surprised Scott McTominay.
The deeper Joelinton fell the better he won, in several cases serving as a near-sweeper shielding his defense from danger by kicking the ball off opponents’ toes, most memorable being an advancing Diogo Dalot.
His presence as a resurgent executor also protected Jonjo Shelvey, allowing his fellow midfielder to focus on finding gaps in Rangnick’s rearguard. As a result, De Gea had to react intelligently to deflect Shelvey’s 25-yard shot at a time when Ronaldo’s expression started to turn moody.
Worrying for the United manager, it seemed there was a glaring lack of telepathy between Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford. In mitigation, it did little to help their cause that Bruno Fernandes was strangely ineffective in a completely overwhelmed midfield department in a team that at times seemed set up in weirdly awkward form in 4-2-2-2.
When Saint-Maximin upset three visiting defenders and Callum Wilson’s first shot slipped out of De Gea’s grip, St James’ Park erupted in ecstasy. Fortunately for Rangnick, this “goal” was disallowed for offside.
Fortune quickly frowned again when Wilson, its most trusted scorer, injured an ankle and was forced to leave. The resulting reshuffle saw Jacob Murphy coming in wide to the left as Longstaff moved slightly further forward and Saint-Maximin took on the center punching duties.
Unsurprisingly, Rangnick made a double substitution, bringing in Jadon Sancho and Edinson Cavani at the expense of Fred and Greenwood. But his currently improving squad would have fallen behind if Saint-Maximin hadn’t proven he’s human after all by shooting De Gea directly after being spotted by Emil’s right-wing lead. Krafth.
As Howe’s anguished body language pointed out that it was the kind of dud that can change games, even seasons, Rangnick may have felt almost the same as Cavani’s side passed Sancho’s target. .
Meanwhile, Ronaldo made a wide volley – and arguably was lucky enough to just receive a yellow card for a wild, reckless and petulant kick against Ryan Fraser. It was not his heyday.
It was up to Cavani to raise the tone by losing his marker, meeting Dalot’s cross and scoring on the rebound with Martin Dubravka blocked after his initial shot was blocked.
Somewhat fortuitously, United were tied, and when De Gea brilliantly saved from Miguel Almirón after Murphy hit a post, Howe, who also saw Saint-Maximin limp, knew it really wasn’t going to be his night.
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