Edinson Cavani rescued Manchester United as his second-half strike secured a 1-1 Premier League draw at relegation-threatened Newcastle United and spared Ralf Rangnick a first defeat.
The Red Devils were labelled “a bunch of whingebags” by Sky pundit Gary Neville at half-time, and after beginning the Rangnick era with 1-0 wins over Crystal Palace and Norwich City, this was a sharp reality check.
Saint-Maximin’s seventh-minute strike was a gem and the French forward missed a sitter at the start of the second half.
Visitors United, who lost their discipline at times and could easily have had Cristiano Ronaldo sent off, were thankful they had Cavani in the right place in the 71st minute, tucking home at the second attempt to earn a point.
6 – Edinson Cavani has scored six goals in 17 appearances in the Premier League for @ManUtd as a substitute, with only four players scoring more such goals for the club: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (17), Chicharito (14), Marcus Rashford (9) and Anthony Martial (8). Super. #NEWMUN pic.twitter.com/DPVUnFTfwg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 27, 2021
The lively Saint-Maximin gave Newcastle a great start, sidestepping Harry Maguire before planting a powerful shot into the right corner. The fit-again Raphael Varane had been too easily dispossessed by a hungry Sean Longstaff in the build-up.
An air-shot volley from Ronaldo was met with derisive jeers from home supporters, before Newcastle thought they had another goal when Callum Wilson tucked in after more good work from Saint-Maximin, but the striker was clearly offside. Newcastle then lost Wilson to a calf injury moments before half-time.
Fred and Mason Greenwood were replaced by Jadon Sancho and Cavani for the second half, but Newcastle should have been 2-0 ahead almost instantly, with Saint-Maximin thwarted by David de Gea from close range after Emil Krafth’s cross from the right found him just four yards out.
Marcus Rashford’s strike from 25 yards was pushed over by Martin Dubravka, and Cavani scuffed a shot wide, before Ronaldo was perhaps fortunate to be only booked for a rash swipe at Ryan Fraser.
Fraser and Saint-Maximin were denied by De Gea as Newcastle got a second wind, but they gave Cavani another sniff of goal and paid for it. Diogo Dalot’s cross from the right found Cavani by the penalty spot, and after his first shot was blocked, the Uruguayan jabbed a second attempt into the bottom-right corner.
Saint-Maximin limped off late on, but there was almost a late moment to savour for Newcastle as Jacob Murphy smashed a fine strike against the right post from a tight angle on the left late on, before Miguel Almiron was denied by a spectacular De Gea save
What does it mean? Red Devils get away with it, cruel blows for Newcastle
The Magpies would have been good value for three points, but the likes of Cavani will always carry a threat and to let a low cross from the right find him in such a threatening position was inviting trouble.
Newcastle had eight shots on target to four from their visitors, and the loss of Wilson and Saint-Maximin to injury were big blows. United were largely poor, lacking in shape, and Rangnick will demand a huge improvement as they strive to secure a top-four finish.
Can United afford to lose Cavani?
Off the bench to take over from the quiet Greenwood, Cavani finished the game with a team-high five shots and gave a penalty-box presence that had been lacking. He is reputedly wanted by Barcelona and Corinthians, but on this evidence United might do well to talk him into staying.
Cavani has scored six goals in 17 substitute appearances in the Premier League, with only four players scoring more such goals for the club: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (17), Javier Hernandez (14), Rashford (9) and Anthony Martial (8).
Familiar failings for Magpies
Newcastle have only managed one clean sheet at home in the Premier League in 2021, so it always felt they would need a second goal. The Red Devils have now scored 113 Premier League goals against Newcastle – no side has scored more against a single opponent in the competition’s history.
Cavani’s goal was the 80th Newcastle have conceded in the Premier League this year, which is the most shipped by any team in a calendar year in the competition.
Manchester United host Burnley on Thursday in their final game of 2021, while Newcastle are in action on the same day as they head to Everton.
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