LONDON • It was a case of one step forward and two steps back for Manchester United as they cast off their recent "boring" image on Tuesday but, despite some thrilling attacking, dropped to sixth place in the Premier League.
"Of course it feels like a defeat… we are very disappointed, we've lost very expensive points," United manager Louis van Gaal said after his side's 3-3 draw at Newcastle United.
Despite Wayne Rooney scoring twice and creating another goal for Jesse Lingard, the visitors could not hold on to their leads.
United scored from their first three shots on target. But their efficiency in front of goal was ultimately let down by glaring misses from Lingard, who blazed over from inside the box at 2-1, and Marouane Fellaini, who headed straight at goalkeeper Rob Elliott from point-blank range at 3-2.
"We have only ourselves to blame because we could have won this match," added van Gaal, who had been criticised for United's lack of attacking prowess in a season that has seen them score just 24 goals in 20 league games prior to Tuesday night.
"We missed big chances to win it. We were the better team. We have scored three goals but only have one point.
"So now is the defence weak? No. We were unlucky in decisions of the referee and a deflected shot and we did not finish our chances."
The Dutchman was unhappy with the awarding of a penalty to Newcastle, for shirt-pulling by Chris Smalling on Aleksandar Mitrovic, that the Serb put away to make it 2-2.
But, while Paul Dummett's 90th-minute equaliser for Newcastle took a hefty deflection off Smalling, Steve McClaren arguably had considerably greater cause to be aggrieved by the refereeing.
The Magpies' manager strongly disagreed with the early hand-ball penalty awarded against Chancel Mbemba from which Rooney opened the scoring after just nine minutes.
McClaren was at least relieved to have ended a run of four defeats.
"Manchester United are a quality team but at the end of the night, we've shown what we're all about," he said on a day when Georginio Wijnaldum scored their first goal in 453 minutes.
"We've shown character, attitude. By the end, we actually had more possession (54 per cent to 46) than Manchester United...
"You don't realise what an immense effort that is to come back from 2-0 and 3-2 and to perform as we did.
"That's how far the team have come from the start of the season. But that's the standard we've set."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE