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Willock And Wilson Stun Manchester United To Fire Newcastle To Crucial Win

Erik ten Hag has described Newcastle United as “annoying” for some time now but Manchester United’s manager did not perhaps bargain on Eddie Howe’s side becoming much more than a nuisance quite so quickly.

Confirmation that Newcastle are now serious rivals when it comes to the all important matter of Champions League qualification arrived as second-half goals from the excellent Joe Willock and the substitute Callum Wilson helped Howe’s team leapfrog their guests as they rose to third in the Premier League. Granted Manchester United are level on points but their goal difference is distinctly inferior.

If Howe enjoyed watching his players exert revenge for February’s Carabao Cup final defeat to the same opponents, Ten Hag’s irritation at being bested here surfaced as, deep in the second half, he and his Newcastle counterpart pointed fingers in each other’s face after the Dutchman accused Nick Pope, the home goalkeeper of time wasting. In the end he and Howe had to be separated by Manchester United’s assistant manager, Steve McClaren.

Newcastle began by forcing the highest of tempos. At times it was thrillingly exhilarating but the concern for home fans was that it did not seem humanely possible for their team to maintain such ferocity and intensity for too long.

Howe could certainly have done with his side scoring an early goal but when Jacob Murphy created a decent opening courtesy of a cleverly chipped cross David de Gea came to Manchester United’s rescue.

Yet although De Gea’s fine double save kept out both Alexander Isak’s initial header and Willock’s follow up from the rebound, Manchester United, and Diogo Dalot in particular, were being persistently de-stabilised by Allan Saint-Maximin’s electric left-wing advances.

Indeed as Sean Longstaff sent a header swerving narrowly wide after connecting with one of Saint-Maximin’s crosses Ten Hag looked almost as agitated as Antony became whenever he entered Dan Burn’s orbit.

Perhaps sensibly, Manchester United’s manager instructed Antony and Marcus Rashford to temporarily, swap flanks, thereby briefly putting a stop to the former’s increasingly feisty duel with Burn.

That switch may well have come as a relief to Howe who will doubtless have noted those moments when Antony had the beating of his centre half turned emergency left back. As excellent as Burn has been this season there is a reason why a natural, high calibre, left back ranks high on Newcastle’s summer shopping list.

Callum Wilson celebrates sealing victory for Newcastle with their second goal. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty ImagesAn extra central midfielder is another of Howe’s close season requirements and Scott McTominay – deputising for the visitors here in place of the suspended, and much missed, Casemiro – has his admirers inside St James’ Park. Accordingly this represented something of an audition for Scotland’s man of the moment and, sure enough, McTominay’s running battle with Bruno Guimarães proved a significant sub-plot.

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Not for the first time in recent months Guimarães’s midfield sidekick Willock impressed, refusing to allow Ten Hag’s side to settle into any sort of proper rhythm. After making a late dash into the area and collecting Saint-Maximin’s counter-attacking cut back Willock really should have given Newcastle the lead but instead shot wildly off target.

Although, as half time beckoned, Antony came close to volleying the visitors into the lead from Luke Shaw’s corner, Pope largely remained surprisingly untroubled in Newcastle’s goal. Tellingly Wout Weghorst, Ten Hag’s centre forward, had been fairly anonymous. It came as no real shock, when shortly after the interval, Weghorst was replaced by Anthony Martial in a double switch also involving Jadon Sancho’s replacement of Antony. Admittedly with some justification Antony looked distinctly unamused about being hooked.

If half-time had provided something of a respite for Dalot, Ten Hag’s right back soon found himself being given the run around by Saint-Maximin once more.

Quick GuideHow do I sign up for sport breaking news alerts?ShowDownload the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for ‘The Guardian’.If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.Turn on sport notifications.Appropriately enough, the French winger created Willock’s goal, meeting Guimarães’s delicate cross and heading it back across goal, leaving the scorer with the straightforward task of nodding the ball beyond De Gea. Hats off to Willock though; surely an England call up cannot be too far away.

Credit too, to Isak who, in turning Raphaël Varane and holding the ball up superbly, permitted Saint-Maximin to conjure that incisive cross.

Wilson then stepped off the bench and promptly dodged Victor Lindelöf, newly on for Varane, to head Newcastle’s second after connecting with a typically stellar Kieran Trippier free-kick, conceded needlessly by Shaw.

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