Newcastle and Manchester United played out and exhilarating 3-3 contest at St James Park in what was one of the best games of the season so far.

The hosts started brightly, but it was the Red Devils who drew first blood as Wayne Rooney scored a penalty in the ninth minute, after Chancel Mbemba was adjudged to handle the ball while having his arm in an unnatural position.

There was a sense of injustice among Newcastle fans, and their frustration only grew when they had a penalty appeal of their own turned down at the half-hour mark when Daryl Janmaat appeared to be fouled inside the box.

Shortly after, United broke on a counter-attack and doubled their lead through a tidy finish from Jesse Lingard.

The visitors seemed destined to go into halftime two goals in front, but their lead was reduced just before the break courtesy of a lovely volley from Georginio Wijnaldum.

The second-half belonged to the Magpies and on 67 minutes they were given the chance to equalise after Chris Smalling foolishly tackled Aleksandr Mitrovic to the ground inside the area.

The Serbian stepped up to take the spot kick and sent David De Gea the wrong way. 10 minutes later, Man United would regain the lead courtesy of Wayne Rooney winding back the clock and hitting a fine shot from outside the box, which left Rob Elliot with no chance.

Louis Van Gaal looked like he would get a much needed three points away from home, until a rocket from Paul Dummett which took a deflection off Smalling rescued a point for the Magpie.

Newcastle made no changes from their last league outing against Arsenal, with Elliot protected by a back four of Daryl Janmaat, Mbemba, Fabricio Coloccini and Paul Dummett Cheick Tiote and Jack Colback offered extra support for the defence by playing just in front, while a trio of Moussa Sissoko, Wijnaldum and Ayoze Perez provided support for lone
striker Mitrovic.

Manchester United made three changes from the side that defeated Swansea, with Phil Jones, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juan Mata making way for Matteo Darmian, Marouane Fellaini and Lingard.

They lined up in the same formation as Newcastle, with David De Gea protected by Ashley Young, Smalling, Daley Blind and Darmian.

Morgan Schneiderlin and Fellaini sat just in front of them, while Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera and Lingard played just behind Rooney.

Neither side has entertained this season, and the expectation heading into this match was that it would be a boring scoreless draw with potentially one goal being enough to win.

Surprisingly, both teams looked like they wanted to win and neither was prepared to settle for a share of the spoils. Newcastle had 14 shots compared to Man United’s 12, and there was also 10 chances created to nine in Newcastle’s favour.

These numbers were well up from previous weeks, and from the Toon’s perspective especially, offers a stark contrast to the meeting earlier in the season when they only managed seven shots and created six chances.

A combined total of 26 shots is not what many expected heading in.

After lining up with a 4-4-2 for the majority of this season, The Magpies changed to a 4-2-3-1, primarily to allow Wijnaldum to move into a more favoured central-role.

The Dutchman played as a No.10 and flourished, able to get more involved in play as compared to recent weeks. He also completed 90% of his passes which was a marked improvement from when he played on the left against Arsenal.

One player who struggled to adapt to the formation change was Perez, who was forced to play out wide. The Spaniard had little impact and was often isolated.

Furthermore, he could not complete any of his four attempted crosses and only was only on target with 72% of his passes.

The 20-year-old striker surprisingly lined-up on the right-hand side of an attacking trio, and his battle with Dummett was a fascinating sight throughout the match.

Whenever Martial tried to beat the fullback using his technical ability he failed and the Manchester attack broke down. However, after approximately 25 minutes the Frenchman changed his approach, opting to run at the Newcastle left-back and intimidate him with his speed.

It was a move which worked in Martial’s favour as he gained the upper-hand in the individual dual.

The youngster faded out of the game in the second-half as Newcastle did most of the attacking, but he proved that his pace is one of his greatest assets.

Newcastle United conclusion

The formation change meant Wijnaldum could play in his preferred position, but ultimately the match proved that the Geordies still need a winger, as Perez is not the answer out wide.

New signings Henri Saivet and Jonjo Shelvey watched on and will be eligible for the match against West Ham this weekend, their arrival should bring about some fresh optimism and add an extra dimension to their midfield.

Overall it was a good performance which was rewarded with a point. The aim is now to play like this against their relegation rivals.

Manchester United conclusion

All season, Manchester United fans have been pleading with van Gaal to “attack, attack, attack,” and that is exactly what they got at St James’ Park.

The problem is, they conceded three goals to a team that had gone over 400 minutes without scoring prior to this meeting.

The ‘boring Man United’ tag will not rear its head this week, but they are still not any better off, because letting a two goal lead slip against a team in the relegation zone is not good enough for a club the size and stature of Manchester United.