The Senegal striker's first half volley set the home side toward a famous victory over Sir Alex Ferguson's side which fell to its second consecutive league defeat
Ba, playing his final game for the Magpies before jetting off to the African Cup of Nations for Senegal, proved a handful throughout the game and his instinctive 33rd minute strike left the fans in raptures.
Manchester United, still reeling from its loss to Blackburn struggled to create obvious chances and found the situation worse minutes after halftime following a fantastic free kick from Cabaye that all but sealed the points. The champions did muster a chance through Wayne Rooney but ultimately Phil Jones’ own goal ended their chances of keeping pace with league leaders Manchester City.
Reacting to his team's shock loss at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson chose to rotate his goalkeepers for the third time in three games, recalling Anders Lindegaard following the suspect performance of David De Gea against Blackburn.
Newcastle started brightly, intending to impose its physicality on the champions, no more evident in the build up to the opening chance of the game. Cheik Tiote battled his way through three challenges in a congested middle before feeding the ball to Taylor, operating on the right wing. His low cross to Ba seemed perfect but the Senegal striker fluffed his lines, completely missing the ball from ten yards out.
The in-form Dimitar Berbatov came closest to breaking the deadlock as the Red Devils began to dominate possession. After a fluid midfield move that started with a deceptive pirouette by Rooney, Evra’s cross found Berbatov but his header was deflected by Santon onto the foot of Krul’s right-hand post.
On the 25th minute referee Howard Webb caused controversy, denying Pardew’s side a penalty after a tangle of legs between Rio Ferdinand and Ba. The striker appeared to reach the ball first before tumbling under a clumsy challenge by Ferdinand. Webb, though turned down the appeals much to the disbelief of both manager, players and fans.
Newcastle’s grievances were short-lived as merely six minutes later they opened the scoring. There was little guile involved as Tim Krul’s long set-piece was nodded on by Ameobi and into Ba’s path. The striker, boasting 14 goals from his last 14 Premier League games, reacted to the lay off with a hooked volley that flew up and over Lindegaard and into the side netting.
Both sides emerged for the second half unchanged and the threatening Ba again caused United’s defense problems. This time, picking the ball up in a deep area, his run at the defense forced Jones to attempt a tackle he was always second favorite to win.
The resulting free kick, positioned in line with Lindegaard’s right-hand post, was presided over by the Frenchman Cabaye. His firmly struck effort from 25 yards had just enough swerve to take the ball over the United wall and fractionally under their crossbar. Lindegaard’s desperate leap to his right was in vain and the Sports Direct Arena erupted once more.
United’s reaction came slowly as Pardew’s side kept things tight. However, immediately following Ferguson’s decision to replace Berbatov with Welbeck, the Manchester club almost pulled a goal back. Nani’s left footed cross was flicked on by Welbeck and fell to Rooney who prodded goalwards, but Danny Simpson’s fine reflexes helped him to clear off the line with his knee. The rebound was squared by Welbeck to Park but another fine defensive touch deflected the ball to safety.
As the game dragged on towards its finish, Newcastle looked to close the game out, using Ba as its outlet. The Senegalese striker was a constant thorn in the side of the United defense but when he lost possession, the central midfield partnership of Cabaye and Tiote provided a robust second line of defense.
Tim Krul was called into action minutes from the end following a misdirected header by Fabricio Coloccini that almost played in substitute Javier Hernandez but Krul reacted sharply to pounce on the loose ball.
As the game petered out and Ba, to much adulation, was relieved of his on-pitch duties, a comical own goal developed. Tim Krul’s wind-assisted long ball caused confusion between Jones and Lindegaard. As the Dane ran around Jones to collect the ball, the defender panicked and saw the ball ricochet off his hip and into the unguarded net, providing a fitting end to United's match.
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