On 23 December Rafa Benitez was down to the bare bones, a crucial relegation six-pointer at West Ham and amongst those unavailable were all of his central midfield preferences, leaving the United boss with no other choice but to play Mohamed Diame & Henri Saivet and hope for the best.
Seven weeks later and Mohamed Diame has never looked back.
The midfielder scoring and playing a pivotal role in that 3-2 win at the Hammers, Diame having started eight of the last nine Premier League matches now, with Newcastle having only lost to Manchester City in that period.
Against Manchester United he was once again immense, along with Jonjo Shelvey the pair bossed the centre of midfield with Paul Pogba eventually subbed off.
Quite amazing how much better Mohamed Diame is looking, you can talk about change of position, but to go from looking like a poor Championship player to very good Premier League performer (if keeping recent form up) is very hard to take in.
Newcastle fans though are just enjoying the moment.
From kick-off yesterday, it was clear, just as was the case at Old Trafford, that Newcastle were happy to try and press the opposition and play as much of the game as possible in the opposition half.
Mohamed Diame explaining Rafa’s tactics: ‘We tried to push and press them, not allow them to turn with the ball. They are the kind of team that if you don’t let them play, you can make them uncomfortable, that’s what we tried to do.’
At Old Trafford Newcastle took the lead and were very good for most of the first half, only to then drop off the pace and allow Paul Pogba far too much time and he exposed defensive frailties with Jamaal Lascelles missing.
On Sunday though, there was no letting Pogba strut his stuff and clearly he didn’t like it with Mohamed Diame in particular in his face.
Whilst Man Utd were always going to get some chances, Lascelles and his defence, in fact the entire team, defended with everything that they had.
It was enough, just.
With Slimani still to come in and Rafa indicating he was close to including him yesterday, suddenly the manager is now looking at having to make some very positive decisions in his team selection for Bournemouth in two weeks time.
Mohamed Diame talking to the official club site:
“A very good feeling…unbelievable.
“The kind of game that when you win it, with this atmosphere, the fans, the pressure we had before the game with the Huddersfield (beating Bournemouth and putting Newcastle in bottom three) result…it is just amazing.
“We have done brilliantly today.
“The team worked so hard – in front of the goal, stopping every single ball.
“It was a big battle, a big fight, but we’re so pleased with this result.
“We knew they (Huddersfield) were winning against Bournemouth so we knew the situation before starting the game.
“But to be honest, we started well. We have been focused since the beginning and we just worked hard together.
“We knew that the fans would push us.
“Manchester United are the kind of team that if you don’t let them play, you can make them uncomfortable, that’s what we tried to do.
“We tried to push and press them, not allow them to turn with the ball, and I think we did well.
“It (the crowd) is helping you, it’s pushing you.
“It is giving you an extra breath, to give more and to work harder, and to keep on running even when you’re tired.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0
Newcastle: Ritchie 65
Possession was Man Utd 64% Newcastle 36%
Total shots were Man Utd 13 Newcastle 10
Shots on target were Man Utd 6 Newcastle 3
Corners were Man Utd 10 Newcastle 0
Referee: Craig Pawson
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy (Atsu 84), Gayle (Joselu 80), Perez (Hayden 90+4)
Darlow, Manquillo, Murphy, Merino
Crowd: 52,309 (Man Utd 3,000)
(Alan Shearer gives his reaction to the win HERE)
(Read Jose Mourinho’s reaction to the match HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the victory HERE)
(Match ratings for all Toon players after beating Man Utd HERE)
(Rafa Benitez verdict after beating Manchester United HERE)