From start to finish this was a breathless afternoon at Old Trafford. Manchester United were staring at dropping four points in three days when on 90 minutes Javier Hern?ndez slid home a Michael Carrick ball to make it 4-3 and cause a joyful Sir Alex Ferguson to jump into the arms of Mike Phelan, his assistant.
Controversy was also a key ingredient of this Boxing Day affair after Mike Dean overruled himself having initially agreed with his assistant that Newcastle?s second was offside when it had, in fact, been a Jonny Evans own goal. At the close there also appeared to be a disagreement involving Fabricio Coloccini, Rio Ferdinand and John Carver, the Newcastle assistant manager, in which Patrice Evra acted as the peace-broker.
After Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young were left out of the match-day squad due to injury and Danny Welbeck due to illness (according to the club), the contest had begun in ta poor way for Ferguson?s team.
On four minutes, a Hern?ndez crossfield ball that may have been aimed at Evans found Carrick, whose clumsy touch handed possession to Demba Ba. Newcastle?s lone striker in their 4-2-3-1 wandered forward, took a look at the on-running James Perch, then decided to shoot. This was hit to the right of De Gea but close enough for him to gather or palm away strongly. Taking the latter option, the Spaniard placed it straight into Perch?s path, who made it 1-0.
A topsy-turvy half unfolded which ended with Newcastle walking off 2-1 ahead due to the Reds sloppiness and a creative deficit that had also been evident when they dropped two points at Swansea City on Sunday.
The travelling support certainly enjoyed that first 45 minutes. Their repertoire included a few verses of ?Robin van Persie,nhe should have been dead? which satirised Ferguson?s claim that Ashley Williams?s kicking of a ball at his head in the Swansea game had threatened the Dutchman?s mortality. And they also sang ?Pogo if you love the Toon? with more of the tender stuff aimed firmly at Dean when awarding the Evans own goal after first ruling it offside at the behest of his assistant, Jake Collin.
Perch?s cross-shot had been turned in by Evans, who immediately clasped his head in despair. This may have given the game away because after the assistant flagged, perhaps thinking the touch was from the offside Papiss Ciss?, Dean, harangued by Newcastle players, eventually consulted his assistant and changed his mind.
This was just before the half hour. Four minutes earlier Evans had equalised. A Robin van Persie free-kick swung in from the right was weakly headed on by Ryan Giggs but Newcastle failed to clear and when Hern?ndez?s close range shot was parried by Tim Krul, Evans finished.
When it was time for the second half, Manchester United were first out and as they waited for their counterparts to appear a furious Ferguson could be seen arguing with Dean, the fourth official, Neil Swarbrick, and the assistant involved in the overturned Evans own goal.
Whether the Scot will face a Football Association charge for his conduct was immediately unclear, thought he was more content 13 minutes into the second half when his side forced a second equaliser. A Van Persie ball was only half-cleared to Evra and when the captain strode forward he unloaded from distance to make it 2-2.
United?s players wanted the game to restart as soon as possible. But, their momentum was stymied by a sucker punch that again gave Newcastle the lead.
Gabriel Obertan, formerly of this parish and on as a replacement, moved down the left and rolled the ball across the space in United?s area. Ciss? pulled back his left foot and smacked the ball past De Gea.
Newcastle had the lead for only three minutes. Antonio Valencia?s delivery from the right found Van Persie and when his first shot was saved by Krul, the rebound was passed to him and this time he made it 3-3.
But Hern?ndez?s late, late winner stole all three points to end Newcastle?s day on a sour note made worse by the sight of Vurnon Anita being stretchered off.