Newcastle sent Manchester United spinning to their second consecutive Premier League defeat on Wednesday to give Manchester City a vital edge in the title race.
Goals from Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and a late Phil Jones own goal clinched a deserved 3-0 victory for Newcastle at St James Park, as United missed the chance to go level on points with City at the top of the table.
The defeat means United, beaten by Blackburn at Old Trafford in their last outing over the weekend, now trail City by three points after the league leaders downed Liverpool 3-0 at Eastlands on Tuesday.
“The story of the game is they had two fantastic goals, which put them in the driving seat and they weren’t going to lose it,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “We have had our opportunity and it’s advantage to Man City. We don’t normally have back-to-back defeats but the plus point is we had some players back tonight.”
“It’s not a time for panic, we have the experience to cope with it,” Ferguson said. “We need to get the show on the road in terms of the run in.”
An end-to-end first half saw both sides threaten early on, with Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov grazing the post with a header on 15 minutes to set alarm bells ringing in the Newcastle defense.
At the other end, Newcastle had strong appeals for a penalty turned down by referee Howard Webb after Rio Ferdinand brought down Ba as the two players tussled for possession.
The deadlock was broken on 33 minutes when Newcastle’s readiness to play route-one soccer paid dividends. A long kick upfield by Newcastle keeper Tim Krul was met by Shola Ameobi, who flicked on for Ba, who in turn hooked a superb volley into the side netting beyond Anders Lindegaard, favored in goal ahead of the dropped David De Gea.
Ba’s strength and mobility continued to cause problems for United and it was a foul on the striker by Jones early in the second half that led to Newcastle’s second.
From the ensuing free-kick Cabaye stepped up and struck a powerful curling effort into the top corner beyond the despairing dive of Lindegaard.
Newcastle’s second stung United into action, and only a magnificent goal-line clearance from Danny Simpson prevented Wayne Rooney from pulling a goal back for the visitors on 59 minutes.
Rooney, who had missed the Blackburn defeat after being dropped by Ferguson for disciplinary reasons, endured a miserable evening and eventually suffered the indignity of being substituted with 15 minutes to go.
A bad night for United got worse in the dying minutes when a long punt forward by Krul caused confusion in the visiting defense and Jones steered a header past Lindegaard for 3-0.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said the physical presence of Ba and Ameobi had caused problems for United.
“I think we won today because we controlled the game in terms of what we wanted to do. We didn’t let them play. Physically and aerially today we had an advantage and we capitalized on that,” Pardew said.