There were moments when Louis van Gaal looked slightly smug. At other times he seemed deeply frustrated and, occasionally, downright furious but there is one emotion Manchester Unitedâ€™s manager surely did not experience. It is safe to assume he was never bored by his team on Tuesday night.
Even Van Gaal had confessed to finding his latest team a little dull lately but here they provided the perfect antidote. Almost a throwback to the glorious tactical â€œanarchyâ€ of Alex Fergusonâ€™s early reign this was a gloriously exciting game featuring two goals from Wayne Rooney, an impressive Newcastle Unitedfightback and a host of defensive imperfections.
When everyone finally drew breath Steve McClarenâ€™s side were still third bottom and Manchester United had slipped to sixth but both managers expressed cautious reason to believe they can defy the bookmakersâ€™ odds and keep their jobs.
Once the Â£12m Jonjo Shelvey and the Â£4.5m Henri Saivet â€“ signings from Swansea and Bordeaux respectively, who were paraded on the pitch before kick-off â€“ begin fortifying midfield the Tynesiders should start climbing the table.
Watching from the stands that pair bowed their heads as St Jamesâ€™ held a heartfelt minute of applause in celebration of the life of Pavel Srnicek, Newcastleâ€™s hugely popular former goalkeeper who died of a cardiac arrest last month at the age of 47.
Is it really 20 years since Srnicek was part of Kevin Keeganâ€™s famous Newcastle â€œEntertainersâ€ who, back in 1996, so memorably challenged Fergusonâ€™s similarly swashbuckling Manchester United for the Premier League title?
Two decades on both sidesâ€™s harbour distinctly downgraded ambitions with McClarenâ€™s hopes of avoiding relegation swiftly receiving the latest in a long line of dents when his team somewhat harshly conceded a penalty.
The former England coach has not had an awful lot of luck in recent months and here Chancel Mbemba was unfortunate to be judged guilty of handball after Marouane Fellaini rose to meet a corner and headed it straight at his markerâ€™s admittedly extended arm.
With no room to manoeuvre there was nothing Mbemba could do about it but, nonetheless, Mike Dean â€“ who could perhaps argue the centre-half had no need to stick that limb out in the first place and had quite possibly blocked a goalbound header â€“ pointed to the spot.
Rooney stepped forward to send Rob Elliot the wrong way courtesy of a kick directed to the goalkeeperâ€™s left. As it hit the back of the net, McClaren probably felt he had been kicked in the teeth.
Even worse for Newcastleâ€™s manager was the sense that the game was settling into an all too familiar pattern. By the end Manchester United were being bullied off the ball and had lost control of possession but, at this early juncture, they exuded an increasing aura of authority which was starting to depress the Gallowgate End.
It could have been worse. When Rooney checked and cleverly beat the home offside trap before accelerating on to Jesse Lingardâ€™s neat pass, he probably should have scored but instead shot narrowly wide.
Georginio Wijnaldum suggested he, too, had misplaced his shooting boots when, having been put through by Ayoze PÃ©rez, he aimed his shot far too close to David de Gea, permitting Van Gaalâ€™s goalkeeper to save smartly with his legs.
McClaren appeared to have genuine cause for complaint when Lingard looked to have tripped Daryl Janmaat in the area but, inexplicably, Dean refused to award a penalty and then again when Fellaini, already booked and getting away with a litany of niggly fouls, blatantly tugged Jack Colback back.
It was time for Van Gaalâ€™s players to show their more attractive side and, sure enough, when Ander Herrera collected a loose ball near the halfway line he provided Rooney with an exquisite pass. After holding the ball up intelligently â€“ and holding off Fabricio Coloccini â€“ Rooney slipped in a superb reverse pass which Lingard, making a blindside run, took in his stride before dispatching the ball low, and assuredly, beyond Elliot.
Coloccini had seemed completely lost during that little cameo but Newcastleâ€™s captain made amends with a diagonal pass from which Aleksandar Mitrovic beat Fellaini in the air and flicked on for Wijnaldum to volley unerringly past De Gea.
It was a fabulous finish which proved a precursor to a second-half Newcastle rally. Featuring Moussa Sissoko upping the tempo and driving his team forward at every opportunity it ensured unbridled optimism replaced earlier hints that mutiny might be simmering in the stands.
This newly restored faith was very nearly punctured when Anthony Martial tricked Mbemba and Herrera played an adroit pass from which Lingard should have scored but instead curled his shot high and wide.
It was a costly miss because when Chris Smalling wrestled Mitrovic to the floor as they jostled at a corner, Dean finally awarded Newcastle a penalty, crisply converted by the Serbia centre-forward.
Wijnaldum had what would have been a sublime goal disallowed for offside before Rooney thought he had clinched it. Although Coloccini blocked Depayâ€™s shot the ball rebounded to Unitedâ€™s captain whose wonderful first-time shot from just outside the area whizzed into the top corner.
Then, just as locals were resigning themselves to by now customary disappointment, United failed to clear a cross. Meeting Mitrovicâ€™s chestdown, Paul Dummett, McClarenâ€™s left-back, swiped his left foot at the ball. A hefty deflection off Smalling ensured it evaded De Geaâ€™s grasp and the smile was wiped from Van Gaalâ€™s face.