It is one of the PL’s most storied fixtures, the setting once over for a rivalry that ran as deep as the color of Man United’s jerseys.
Newcastle started the game second from the bottom and Manchester United 20 points off the top. Still, though, it will always be an encounter in which heroes can emerge. Until the moment of Edinson Cavani’s 71st-minute equalizer, it looked like Saint-Maximin would be that man.
From kick-off it had the feel of a special night for Newcastle. They started like a train, their visitors like a snail. There was no shock in the sight of the French forward beating two men and curling home after just seven minutes.
The train, in fairness, did not morph into a parked bus and never did it look like being derailed until the point of Cavani’s close-range finish. That is why there is hope that the Magpies can survive under Eddie Howe.
The idea that they have improved since his arrival has been scoffed at beyond these parts. His results – five points from a possible 21 before this game – have hardly supported those who present their argument of betterment.
But that is to ignore the evidence beyond the scoreline – more shots, possession, running around and desire. Supporters have recognized as much and the atmosphere here – as intense and frenzied as those nights under the lights 25 years ago – was testament to that. They believe in Howe and the likes of Saint-Maximin.
Even Joelinton – the much-maligned club-record signing – has taken on cult-hero status under the influence of the new manager. He struggled with the weight of the No 9 jersey following his arrival in 2019. In large part because he is not a centre-forward.
Indeed, there is an argument for giving him the No 4 shirt next season, the Brazilian having masqueraded as a modern-day Patrick Vieira in recent weeks. The sight of him galloping from a deep-lying midfield position and nutmegging Diogo Dalot in the first half won a cheer as loud as that which greeted the opening goal.
But for all that positivity, a win that would have felt deserved still eluded them. That is one victory at the halfway point of their campaign.
If they are to fare any better in the second half of the season then the new owners will have to spend significantly next month. At least nights like this should remind them that theirs is far from a lost cause.