Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0

Matt Ritchie slides home the winning goal.
Matt Ritchie slides home the winning goal.

Rafa Benitez felt that Newcastle United were “a bit lucky”.

The thing is, Benitez’s side made their own luck at St James’s Park yesterday.

Jonjo Shelvey slides in on Alexis Sanchez.

Jonjo Shelvey slides in on Alexis Sanchez.

Jose Mourinho even admitted as much after seeing his Manchester United team lose 1-0.

There were notable performances all over the pitch.

Newcastle, in the Premier League’s relegation zone at kick-off time, fought and scrapped for every ball, every inch of turf, and when they had possession, they played with intensity and intelligence.

They gave their all, and the crowd, which has witnessed some wretched home performances in recent months, responded.

Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez.

Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez.

The last man off the field was Martin Dubravka, who had been handed his debut by Benitez.

It turned out to be an extraordinary debut on an extraordinary afternoon for Newcastle.

Florian Lejeune was also recalled to the starting XI in place of Ciaran Clark, while Dwight Gayle kept his place up front after new signing Islam Slimani failed to prove his fitness.

Newcastle, set out in a 4-4-2 formation, made a positive start.

The best early chance fell to Jonjo Shelvey, who scored a fine reaction save from David de Gea after the visitors only cleared a free-kick as far as him.

Ayoze Perez also put a chance wide during a frantic opening 10 minutes.

Man United, however, quickly settled into the game, and Alexis Sanchez, signed from Arsenal last month, was a danger whenever he had the ball down the left-hand side.

By the half-hour mark, they were confidently moving the ball around Newcastle’s box.

Kenedy tested de Gea with a shot from distance in the 30th minute, while Dubravka turned a deflected effort from Jesse Lingard round his post.

Dubravka also superbly denied Anthony Martial one-on-one with his left foot towards the end of the opening half.

The half’s moment of controversy came in the 39th minute when Chris Smalling tripped Gayle on the edge of the box. Referee Craig Pawson waved play on, infuriating most inside St James’s Park.

There were chances at both ends after the break. Newcastle gave as good as they got but got out of jail when Sanchez delayed his shot after rounding Dubravka and allowed Lejeune to block with the goal gaping.

Then it happened. Shelvey clipped a free-kick, conceded by Smalling for diving, into the box, and Lejeune headed it down to Gayle.

The striker cleverly laid the ball off to Ritchie, who was unmarked yards from goal. Ritchie placed the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

St James’s Park, which had gone more than three months without a home league win, erupted.

There were still 26 minutes left at that point.

Newcastle saw off attack after attack but Man United kept on coming.

There were blocks, saves and tackles.

It was a remarkable end to a remarkable game.

Mourinho said: “The gods of football were with them, but they fought like animals to get that luck.

“It wasn’t going to happen for us, but also they gave what they have and what they don’t have, that’s a beautiful thing in football.

“They must have the best feeling of all, better even then when you play fantastically well and play better than your opponent.”

It was such a good feeling.

Newcastle did fight like animals, but they were disciplined too.

And they know if they’re to stay up, they will have to do it all over again. And again. And again.