Man United complete their festive programme with another defeat as Newcastle’s in-form striker hands Man City the advantage in Premier League title race


MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson last night insisted there was no need to panic despite seeing his side slip to a second consecutive defeat – one that he admitted handed rivals Manchester City the advantage in the Premier League title race.

Newcastle had frustrated the champions at Old Trafford back in November when they held United to a 1-1 draw. Alan Pardew’s men enjoyed a healthy portion of luck that afternoon but there was nothing fortuitous about last night’s win which featured spectacular goals, one in either half, from Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye.

Victory catapulted the Magpies back to within four points of the top four, while United, who were stunned at home by Blackburn on New Year’s Eve, remain three points adrift of neighbours City.

“It’s advantage to City of course,” admitted Ferguson. “They had the opportunity to take advantage of playing the night before us and we’ve not been able to match them.

“We don’t normally suffer these back-to-back defeats but hopefully I’ll get a few more players back and that will make the difference. It’s not time to panic or anything like that – we have the experience to cope with that. Losing a game at this time of year can happen but we’ve got to get the show on the road in time for the run-in.”

Ferguson opted to rotate his goalkeepers with David De Gea replaced by Anders Lindegaard. The Dane hadn’t conceded a goal in his previous five league games but had no chance with Ba’s 33rd minute opener.

The powerful centre forward latched onto Shola Ameobi’s flick and in one movement swivelled and hooked a volley into the far corner.

Lindegaard was beaten again two minutes after the re-start by Cabaye’s perfectly flighted 30-yard free-kick and United’s misery was compounded in injury-time when Phil Jones headed past his own goalkeeper.

Ba, who now has 15 goals for the season, and another star performer Cheick Tiote will now depart for the African Cup of Nations but Pardew feels he has enough in reserve to cope.

He said: “You see all the guys who came off the bench contributed. Leon Best in particular stepped up to the plate when we lost Andy Carroll. We knew it was going to happen and we accept that.”