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Newcastle (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Edinson Cavani spared Manchester United blushes on his return from a coronavirus hiatus as the Uruguayan saved a 1-1 draw at struggling Newcastle on Monday.
Ralf Rangnick’s side trailed until Allan Saint-Maximin’s eye-catching first goal and were outplayed for long stretches at St James’ Park.
But Cavani came off the bench to score his first goal since October in the second half, ensuring Rangnick avoided his first loss in four games as interim United manager.
United remain in seventh place in the Premier League, seven points behind fourth-placed Arsenal with two games down.
Rangnick had won his first two league games since taking over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with an ax, but neither performance was particularly convincing and it was another disappointing effort.
United had the excuse of the Covid epidemic which has forced them into a 16-day period of inactivity since their 1-0 victory at Norwich on December 11.
Their games against Brentford and Brighton have been postponed, with the club’s training ground closed for four days.
But whatever may be the chaos caused by the coronaviruses, Rangnick will know United need to improve dramatically if they are to place in the top four.
Second in final, Newcastle ended a three-game losing streak, leaving them two safety points after the most encouraging display of Eddie Howe’s eight-game reign.
However, the sight of Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson limping with injuries was a blow to Howe, who has won only once since replacing sacked Steve Bruce.
Although their Covid situation has improved, United have still not been able to return to fully healthy health after Sweden defender Victor Lindelof tested positive on Sunday.
Rusty Man Utd
Raphael Varane returned from injury to replace Lindelof, but United looked rusty after their forced dismissal and Newcastle took the opportunity to take a seventh-minute lead.
Varane casually offered possession to Sean Longstaff and he chose Saint-Maximin.
The French winger showed his fascinating dribbling ability as he passed Diogo Dalot and Harry Maguire before directing a fierce strike past David De Gea from the edge of the box.
Newcastle were a real threat on the clock and Jonjo Shelvey broke off the halfway line for a 25-yard rocket that De Gea fought back.
United struggled to make an impact in the first half, their lethargy summed up a miss from Cristiano Ronaldo that sparked a mocking roar of glee from the Gallowgate End.
The visitors squeaked and Wilson had the ball in the net on the Saint-Maximin-inspired pass, only for an offside flag to interrupt the striker’s celebrations.
Rangnick responded by sending Sancho and Cavani in for Fred and Greenwood at halftime.
Above all, Saint-Maximin should have scored with a close range effort that lacked power to beat De Gea.
United finally started to come out of their shell and the diving shot from Marcus Rashford forced a knockdown from Martin Dubravka.
Cavani wasted a good chance with Sancho’s pass and Ronaldo’s frustrations boiled over as he was booked for a reckless challenge against Ryan Fraser which had prompted Newcastle to claim a red card.
Fraser almost demanded immediate retaliation with a scathing workout that De Gea saved in full swing.
But United equalized in the 71st minute when Dalot’s cross reached Cavani and the Uruguayan striker stabbed at home on the second attempt after his first effort was blocked.
It was Newcastle’s 80th league goal conceded in 2021, the most of any Premier League side in a calendar year.
Cavani almost reached the goal 81 minutes later as his goal kick was snagged out of the line by Jamaal Lascelles.
In a dramatic final, Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy hit the post with a curler before Miguel Almiron’s strike forced a brilliant save from De Gea.
© 2021 AFP