Martin Dubravka gifts Man United their opener in Newcastle defeat

Martin Dubravka spills Marcus Rashford's free-kick.
Martin Dubravka spills Marcus Rashford's free-kick.

Martin Dubravka was the hero against Manchester United 11 months ago.

But he left the field tonight having made a costly error.

Marcus Rashford scores.

Marcus Rashford scores.

And Newcastle United are facing a bleak 2019 – unless Mike Ashley opens his chequebook.

A rare mistake from goalkeeper Dubravka set the club on their way to an eighth Premier League home defeat of the season tonight.

Rafa Benitez's side were beaten 2-0 at St James's Park thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford, and the result left the club just two points ahead of the relegation zone ahead of a run of tough fixtures.

This was once a fixture between two heavyweights. Remember the top-of-the-table clashes during the tenures of Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson?

It can still produce drama – think of last season's 1-0 win, when Dubravka was the hero on his debut – but it's not a level playing field like it was in the 1990s or even early 2000s.

Paul Pogba cost more than Benitez's entire playing staff. Can Newcastle's squad keep on punching above its weight in the division?

Benitez needs reinforcements in this month's transfer window – but Ashley seems as reluctant as ever to back him.

Newcastle's manager has a committed, hard-working team – and they didn't do much wrong for 64 minutes against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's in-form side, who will beat better teams by more goals this season.

Benitez just needs more quality for the second half of the season – especially in the final third of the pitch.

Newcastle need another No 10 – and, ideally, another forward. Benitez also covets another left-back.

They're organised and disciplined without the ball in their own half, but they need to play with more freedom in the final third of the pitch.

Benitez made one enforced change and replaced the injured Federico Fernandez with Fabian Schar in his starting XI.

Newcastle were again set up with a five-man defence with Salomon Rondon at the tip of a 5-4-1 formation. Isaac Hayden was again preferred in midfield to fit-again Jonjo Shelvey.

Kenedy, left out against Watford at the weekend, was named on the bench.

Benitez had spoken of the need for "100%" effort when questioned about Kenedy's absence following the club's 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road.

A banner was unfurled in the Gallowgate End of the stadium which read "there's only one United and it's NUFC" before kick-off time.

However, by the full-time whistle, many in that stand had left.

The visitors started confidently on the back of three successive Premier League wins. Newcastle, with players strung from touchline to touchline, soaked up their early pressure and Christian Atsu tested David de Gea with two saves.

Phil Jones also slid in to stop Salomon Rondon during a good spell of pressure from the home side.

Benitez's team, however, were soon on the back foot, as the visitors prodded and probed away. Paul Pogba, unfavourably compared to Mohamed Diame by Newcastle fans, roamed the pitch looking for pockets of space.

Still, there were chances at the other end of the pitch in the first half, and Atsu, fielded on the left, was involved in all of them.

Rondon, an isolated figure at times, headed a lobbed cross over the bar in the 34th minute.

The game was goalless at the break, and Diame was forced off early in the second half, having been unable to run off a knock. Shelvey replaced him.

Newcastle started to threaten again as Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez warmed up. Shelvey played in Ayoze Perez with a superb ball forward, while Christian Atsu made a good run into the box.

There was seemingly nothing between the two sides – until Solskjaer made a double change in the 63rd minute.

Solskjaer, having seen Newcastle create a series of openings, sent on Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Seconds later, they were ahead. Dubravka spilled a free-kick from Marcus Rashford, and Lukaku was there to prod the ball home.

Benitez responded by sending on Kenedy – he replaced Perez – but the winger wasn't able to get Newcastle back into the game.

And an unmarked Rashford made it 2-0 with 10 minutes left on the clock and Sanchez rolled the ball to him in space after Lukaku broke down the right.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar (Muto, 80), Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie; Perez (Kenedy, 69), Diame (Shelvey, 53), Hayden, Atsu; Rondon. Subs not used: Woodman, Manquillo, Lejeune, Joselu.

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw, Pogba, Herrera, Matic, Martial (Lukaku, 63), Rashford, Mata (Sanchez, 63). Subs not used: Romero, Lingard, Red, Young, Darmian.

Goals: Lukaku 64, Rashford 80

Bookings: Lascelles 28, Lindelof 46, Shaw 75

Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)

Attendance: 52,217