OLD TRAFFORD might have been engulfed by a storm at the weekend, but after defeat at their unhappiest of hunting grounds, it is Newcastle United’s European hopes that are in danger of being washed away.

No matter how bad things are for Manchester United, the Magpies simply cannot beat the Reds in their own backyard. One win in the last 39 league matches. No league double since 1931. And, perhaps of most relevance in the final week of the season, a three-point deficit to sixth-placed Chelsea and only a better goal difference keeping them ahead of Manchester United with one more game to go. If they are going to qualify for Europe, Newcastle might well have to win at Brentford on Sunday and still hope Manchester City triumph in the FA Cup final.

Their position was weakened significantly last night, with Manchester United triumphing thanks to a first-half strike from Kobbie Mainoo, a superb second-half finish from former Sunderland loanee Amad Diallo and a late goal from substitute Rasmus Hojlund.

Newcastle levelled shortly after the interval thanks to Anthony Gordon’s 11th league goal of the season, scored again in stoppage time through Lewis Hall, and also hit the crossbar and had a strong first-half penalty shout turned down. Ultimately, though, their defensive frailties proved their undoing, something that has largely been the story of their season on their travels.

The decision to restore a clearly unfit Kieran Trippier to the starting line-up backfired. Manchester United were also recalling their captain, Bruno Fernandes, and while the home side’s defensive struggles have dominated the headlines recently, they just about managed to cope with Newcastle’s attacking despite once again fielding Casemiro alongside fellow veteran Jonny Evans at centre-half. The pair were stretched at times, but Newcastle failed to get behind them regularly enough to really exploit their frailties.

Manchester United went into the game with their only win from their previous eight league matches having come against Sheffield United, but for all their obvious failings, Erik ten Hag’s side remain capable of producing sporadic moments of brilliance.

Given their horrendous record at Old Trafford for much of the last five decades, Newcastle could hardly take anything for granted, and after Casemiro hooked an overhead kick over the crossbar, Martin Dubravka was called into action for the first time as he parried a 20-yard strike from Amad. With Manchester United’s players becoming increasingly comfortable in possession, it quickly became evident it was not going to be an easy night for the Magpies.

It was essential the visitors kept things as tight as possible, but instead, some horrendous defending afforded Manchester United the opportunity to open the scoring just after the half-hour mark.

Amad slipped a through ball to Mainoo, who found himself completely unmarked ten yards out as Emil Krafth found himself drawn away from the ball tracking Fernandes. Krafth’s wandering would not have mattered had Trippier stepped up with the rest of his fellow defenders, but instead, the England international was caught flat-footed, playing Mainoo onside. The midfielder was left with the easy task of rolling a shot into the corner, and duly obliged.

Could Newcastle respond? They almost did on two separate occasions before the break. First, the Magpies thought they should have had a penalty when Amrabat and Casemiro combined to crowd out Gordon in the area. The former clipped the winger’s heel before the latter won the ball, but a VAR check went in Manchester United’s favour.

Then, a couple of minutes later, Jacob Murphy hung up an inviting cross from the right, but while Dan Burn nodded the ball goalwards at the back post, Casemiro headed clear from the goalline.

At that stage, it did not feel as though it was going to be Newcastle’s night. Four minutes into the second half, though, and the complexion of the evening changed.

There was an awful lot for Gordon to do when Murphy fizzed in a driven cross from the right, but the winger has made a habit of making the difficult look easy this season. Having surged into the box at breakneck speed, Gordon stretched out his right foot to angle a first-time volley past Andre Onana. Another standout moment for Newcastle’s Player of the Season. Surely, he has done enough to convince Gareth Southgate he deserves to be in Germany this summer?

Gordon almost claimed an assist to go along with his goal three minutes later, but while he released Alexander Isak on the break, the Swede’s shot looped off a sliding Amrabat and struck the top of the crossbar. It was a crucial moment as, just five minutes later, Manchester United were reclaiming the lead.

Murphy could only nod Fernandes’ corner to an unmarked Amad, and from the edge of the area, the 21-year-old fired home a brilliant finish. As Sunderland supporters will not need reminding, it was the kind of the goal the youngster was scoring for fun during his loan spell on Wearside last season.

Could Newcastle respond again? They came close. Guimaraes released Sean Longstaff into the right of the box, only for the midfielder’s shot to be saved by Onana. Joelinton looped a header goalwards after coming off the bench, but Onana did well again to tip the ball over. Gordon flashed a low cross across the face of goal, but a sliding Miguel Almiron failed to make contact by a matter of inches.

Newcastle’s spirit was not in question, but any hopes of a comeback were extinguished with six minutes left. Hojlund created a pocket of space on the right of the box, and squeezed a low finish past Dubravka’s right hand.

Hall’s stoppage-time rocket from outside the area made things interesting, but the Magpies ran out of time as they tried in vain to restore parity.