Manchester United is undeniably one of the most storied clubs in English football. Newcastle United have not featured prominently in such discussions for half a century. All-time, the clubs have met in 156 competitive matches with Manchester United having won 79 of those meetings, Newcastle only 40 and the remaining 37 having ended in draws. Although the Magpies have not enjoyed tremendous success overall v. the Red Devils, there is an intriguing trend developing in the meetings between the two clubs. Since December 9, 2010 - the day of Alan Pardew's announcement as manager of United - Newcastle have taken 5 of the 9 points on offer in the league. Is it possible that the Londoner is the anti-Sir Alex Ferguson?
It may be exciting to think of it this way, but to suggest that anyone truly has SAF's number (perhaps MAYBE Jose Mourinho did during his time at Chelsea... any other contenders?) would be a hard case to defend. Let's take a look, then, at the last three matches between the two clubs and see if there's anything to this recent uptick in our results against the red club from Manchester.
January 4, 2012 - Newcastle United 3 - 0 Manchester United - St. James' Park
Admittedly a famous victory in terms of the season and it's importance to Newcastle getting back on the upward trend so far as results (having come on the heels of a rather poor run of form leading into and including the holiday program*), this particular one does not perhaps hold a place in the pantheon of all-time Toon victories. The historic 1996 5-0 victory over Manchester United certainly trumps this one; the 5-1 over the scum probably does as well. Even still, the match (and victory) was vital in Newcastle's return to Europe.
Newcastle's run into this particular match did not inspire hope that we would be able to take the points off of the defending champions. A rash of injuries along the defense for Man U, however, was just one of several indicators that a positive result just might be able to be achieved. The second indicator? My preview for the match just may have been my greatest moment in my time writing for this blog.
This match was one for individual moments of brilliance piled on top of a supreme team effort - the first of these moments would come in the 33rd minute of play as Shola Ameobi flicked a header from Tim Krul's free kick on to Demba Ba, and then this happened:
1-0 to the good guys, and it didn't look like stopping. 15 minutes of game time later, Yohan Cabaye provided this beauty of a contribution to the cause:
2-0 to the Toon after that one (scoring would end 3-0 thanks to a Phil Jones OG), but while all of that was going on, Cheik Tiote was having perhaps his signature game for Newcastle United. I've liked this video before, so I won't imbed it here, but if you haven't seen or you want to see again, Cheik Tiote: Remember the name.
November 26, 2011 - Newcastle United 1 - 1 Manchester United - Old Trafford
Newcastle were coming off a performance against Manchester City (a 3-1 reverse for the Toon) in which they just flat looked scared. In spite of that, the final scoreline included 2 penalties that ended up being the margin of victory... but that's another story. The point is, it was all set up for Newcastle to walk into the Theater of Dreams and get flat rolled. This was, of course, the match in which Hatem Ben Arfa was given a phantom penalty following a legal challenge from Rio Ferdinand. Sir Alex Ferguson (predictably) would say after the match that they had slaughtered us. I had a full replay available to me, so I analyzed the match in 10 minute chunks to see if that statement held true when attempting to inject some amount of objectivity into the reaction process. My ultimate finding - a draw was about the right result on the day. On the day, it may have called for a bit of luck, but it's hard to argue the ultimate result was not fair.
April 19, 2011 - Newcastle United 0 - 0 Manchester United - St. James' Park
There were two notable things that happened on this day. Club record signing Michael Owen returned to St. James' Park wearing the red of Manchester United, and was greeted by Geordies waving cash in his face, which can really only be considered to be a good thing. The other notable happening on this day was that Newcastle United hit the magical 40 point plateau that far more often than not indicates Premier League survival - a plateau that will have been supreme cause for celebration in the Toon's first season back in the Premier League.
I don't individually recall watching this match personally, so I can only reconstruct what happened through other accounts. The 0-0 scoreline was indicative of a good effort on home soil by Newcastle, but more so of poor finishing by both teams. An early save by Tim Krul on Chicharito was probably the best chance of the match, but Alan Pardew's charges did enough to make life difficult for the Red Devils and came away with what was surely the pre-match goal: the point that would assure safety. This match was not one of those that was only important to one side, however. Manchester United were in the heat of a title race (which the would ultimately win) so they had plenty to play for. They surely would have been expecting more against a team that had Shefki Kuqi on the bench. (Remember when it was cute how they signed Kuqi after selling Andy Carroll?)
Ultimately, Alan Pardew is 1-2-0 against Manchester United in his time at Newcastle. One of the draws was a tough, gutty effort aided by poor finishing. One of the draws was a gutty effort aided by a poor refs decision (although not an unfair result on the day). The victory was perhaps Newcastle at their finest... attacking flair, opportunistic moments and living on a razor's edge defensively. Somewhat encouraging will be that we didn't get played off the pitch by Manchester United in the [insert sponsor here] Cup last week. If Alan Pardew can continue his performances against the Red Devils, it may just be a happy Sunday for Newcastle supporters.
*I forget how bad it was starting with the Stretch o' Doom - those three (@ Manchester City, @ Manchester United, Chelsea) were never going to go well anyway, but when you tack on the next 5 matches (@ Norwich City, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion, @ Bolton, @ Liverpool), the Toon only took 5 points from those 8 matches following the unbeaten start that we got off to. Just brutal.