Four things we learned from Newcastle and Man United’s six-goal thriller

Those who tuned in for Newcastle United’s Premier League clash with Manchester United this evening may have witnessed the most exciting match of the season thus far.

Indeed, both sides seemed unlikely candidates to put on a thriller before kickoff; the Red Devils have been accused of boring football all season, whilst the Magpies entered this fixture on the back of three consecutive 1-0 defeats.

Nonetheless, tonight’s game contained a bit of everything – six goals separated equally between the two sides, countless bookings, a plethora of full-blooded tackles, a whole host of controversial refereeing decisions and two expertly converted penalties.

A point a piece doesn’t serve either club particularly well amid their polarised battles at opposite ends of the Premier League table, but spectators have certainly been left with a smile on their collective face.

But it wouldn’t mean a thing if we didn’t learn from it – so here are the FOUR things we took from Newcastle and Man United’s incredible six-goal thriller!

THE HANDBALL RULE NEEDS TO BE Addressed

Mike Dean
The age-old handball debate reared its ugly head on Sunday evening as Tottenham Hotspur were awarded a controversial late penalty to secure an FA Cup replay against Leicester City and we were dished yet another instalment tonight.

As Chancel Mbemba rose with Marouane Fellaini in the box at a corner, the ball struck his arm – which, admittedly, was in an unnatural position – and Mike Dean felt compelled to award a penalty.

But there’s no doubt the Magpies defender’s touch was completely accidental, so did the referee make the right decision? Well, everybody seems so divided on the issue – former official Howard Webb described it as ‘extremely harsh – that we need a little more clarity.

Before the FA become obsessed with implementing video technology, they really need to review the handball rule. Leaving it to the digression of referees is bringing up inconsistent decisions.

WAYNE ROONEY’S GETTING BACK TO HIS BEST

Rooney
A few weeks ago, Wayne Rooney appeared to be sliding down the slope of inevitable ageing decline at quite an incredible rate.

Indeed, he could hardly control a ball during the first few months of the season let alone find the net – hitting the onion bag just once in 14 Premier League outings.

But the England skipper bagged a brace against the Magpies tonight and produced arguably the strongest performance of the evening, cooly converting an early penalty before finding a second with a superb strike into the top corner on 87 minutes.

Adding to his clincher against Sheffield United on Saturday and his cheeky backheel against Swansea City the weekend prior, Rooney now boasts four goals in his last three appearances and seems somewhere near back to his former best.

The Red Devils need a star to revive their stuttering season and it could well be their captain striker.

NEWCASTLE SHOWING SURVIVAL SPIRIT

Steve McClaren
Newcastle United may have only taken a point from tonight’s game, but their second half performance was worthy of taking all three.

It has become increasingly evident in recent months and particularly during tonight’s game; despite regular criticisms otherwise, this Magpies side are ready to fight every inch to secure Premier League survival.

Last season, heads would have dropped after conceding a goal after just eight minutes and even more so as the Red Devils bagged their second half an hour later.

But Steve McClaren’s side dug deep and hit back to draw level – and even carried on going after Rooney’s late thunderbolt to ensure a hard-fought point.

They may still be stuck in the Premier League’s relegation zone, but Newcastle proved tonight they have the quality and the mentality to stay in the top flight.

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR LOUIS VAN GAAL

van gaal (7)
Despite my prior praise for Newcastle United, you have to wonder where this result leaves Louis van Gaal.

On the one hand, Manchester United fans want exciting football and tonight’s match was full of it. But on the other, they’re still stuck outside of the Premier League’s top four.

Whilst the board appeared to be one of the few Red Devils factions still backing the underfire Dutchman, that may no longer be the case after tonight’s result.

Most worryingly, United’s next opponents are northwest rivals Liverpool – who they face on Sunday.

After an underwhelming result at St. James’ Park, the Reds affair feels like it could be make or break for LVG. A poor result could well bring in the winds of change at Old Trafford.