Newcastle rout sets back Man United’s title hopes

Newcastle consigned Manchester United to a second straight loss in the English Premier League by thrashing Alex Ferguson’s side 3-0 at St James’ Park on Wednesday.

United slipped three points behind league leaders Manchester City after sublime strikes by Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye either side of halftime were added to by a calamitous own goal by Phil Jones in the 90th minute.

Coming four days after a shock 3-2 upset at the hands of Blackburn, United’s latest defeat also left the reigning champions just three points above third-place Tottenham in what is shaping up to be a three-horse race for the title.

“We have had our opportunity and it’s advantage to Man City,” said Ferguson, whose team’s next game is against its cross-town rival in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

Newcastle’s strike pairing of Ba — who grabbed his 15th goal of the campaign — and Shola Ameobi bullied United’s defence all night while the returning Wayne Rooney had a frustrating game before being substituted in the 74th.

“We won because we controlled the game in terms of what we wanted to do,” Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said. “We would not let them play. Physically and aerially we had an advantage and capitalised on that.”

Ba’s goal came in the 33rd and at a time when United was looking threatening, with Dimitar Berbatov having already headed against the post with Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul beaten.

Ameobi flicked on a long clearance by Krul and Ba got to the ball ahead of Rio Ferdinand to hook a ball into the far corner.

Cabaye’s free kick made it 2-0, the France midfielder stepping up from 30m to curl a stunning effort into the top corner with United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard getting a fingertip to the shot but was unable to prevent it going in.

Rooney had a volley cleared off the line by Newcastle defender Danny Simpson, a former United player, but United’s night was summed up seconds before stoppage time when Jones stooped to deflect a clearance by Krul into his own net, with Lindegaard completely fooled by his own defender.

“We saw what Blackburn did against Manchester United a few days ago, so one of our main tactics was to get in behind them and squeeze them up the pitch and it worked,” Ameobi said. — Sapa-AP

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