Newcastle, United Kingdom: Manchester United moved a step closer to Champions League qualification as Ashley Young's 89th minute goal clinched a dramatic 1-0 win against Newcastle on Wednesday.
Manchester United's English midfielder Ashley Young celebrates scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Newcastle and Manchester United at St James Park, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, north east England. Pic/AFP
Louis van Gaal's team looked set to lose ground on their rivals in the race for the top four places until Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul gifted Young his first goal in 14 months with just a minute to go at St James' Park. The match was heading towards United's eighth league draw of the season before Wayne Rooney made a late break and Krul could only divert his attempted clearance to Young, who coolly finished at the far post.
With all of United's top-four rivals winning, it was a crucial goal that kept van Gaal's men in fourth place, two points ahead of Liverpool. Although it was tough luck on Newcastle, it was also a poignant day for the Magpies as winger Jonas Gutierrez wore the black and white stripes for the first time in 17 months following his cancer scare, coming on as a second half substitute.
The first real chance fell to John Carver's side as the home support howled for a 10th minute penalty as Emmanuel Riviere wriggled away from Chris Smalling's challenge and was sent tumbling to the ground. It looked every inch a spot kick, but referee Anthony Taylor waved away the penalty claim.
Minutes later, Rooney intelligently created a yard of space deep in the Magpies box for Ander Herrera, who flashed his right foot shot wide of the upright. Midway through the half Rooney fluffed a glorious opportunity as Young's heavy touch fell to the England skipper with just Krul to beat.
Rooney spun and dinked his shot past the advancing Dutch keeper but the ball rolled just past the post. A rare mistake by Fabricio Coloccini on the flank let in his fellow countryman Angel Di Maria, who raced towards the box and crossed for Rooney, only for the United striker to lose control at the vital moment, allowing Krul to burst off his line and smother the chance.
At the other end, Smalling got in front of Mike Williamson as the Magpies defender threatened to convert at the far post, before the visitors restored their first half dominance as Antonio Valencia picked out Marouane Fellaini, whose downward header was brilliantly saved by Krul.
With almost the last kick of the half Moussa Sissoko threaded an enticing ball through to Riviere, who joined Newcastle last summer for Â£5million from Monaco and showed just why he has yet to score in the Premier League. The Frenchman never looked remotely likely to beat David De Gea and embarrassingly slipped in the process of shooting.
After the break Marcos Rojo fired a foot over Krul's bar before Riviere missed another golden opportunity to put his side ahead, as Coloccini's header fell to him in the six yard box, but the mis-firing striker prodded his shot weakly and De Gea parried away his effort on the line.
De Gea's stop was soon put in the shade as Krul produced a remarkable double save to deny the visitors. The Dutchman flung himself to his right to save from Fellaini, then got up and parried Young's blast - a truly incredible double dose of high class goalkeeping.
After 65 minutes St James' Park rose to its feet in unison as Gutierrez made his return after 17 months on the sidelines following treatment for testicular cancer. The Argentine winger replaced Ryan Taylor and was immediately handed the captain's armband by Coloccini.
Within two minutes Gutierrez was given a yellow card for a foul on Adnan Januzaj and seconds later Cisse badly scuffed his shot wide with just De Gea to beat. It was just left to Young to provide the killer finish which keeps them gunning for the top four.