In Week 18, Manchester United played twice, first against Newcastle United on Boxing Day at Old Trafford and second on Sunday against Tottenham Spurs at White Hart Lane. United were wary of their opponents, when facing Newcastle, after suffering 4-3 defeat at their hands on yesteryear's Boxing Day.
United formed in a 3-5-2 yet again. David De Gea started in net again, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, and Paddy McNair started on the backline. Michael Carrick played central defensive midfield right behind Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata in attacking midfield positions. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young played wingbacks, Radamel Falcao and Robin Van Persie deployed in striker positions.
United played extremely well, putting in a confident, strong performance. Wayne Rooney scored the first of his two goals on an easy tap-in, after an extra crossing pass by Falcao. Juan Mata found Rooney for another chance, and a chance taken well by Rooney for his second goal.
United entered the second half with a 2-0 lead. Rooney played playmaker in the second half with a beautiful in the air through ball to Robin Van Persie, who tucked his header away masterfully. Manchester 3, Newcastle 0. United earned many more chances, as Rooney sought a third goal to complete his hat trick. Newcastle, however, would get the next goal on a penalty kick. Phil Jones left his leg hanging out, leading to a poorly timed tackle in his own penalty area. Papiss Demba Cisse placed a perfect penalty kick, bending the ball into the top right corner, nearly impossible to stop.
In their second match of the weekend, United were hoping to end 2014 on a high note with back-to-back wins, but due to the heroics of Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, they could only manage a draw. For the first time in two years and under Louis Van Gaal, United started the same eleven players back-to-back. Lloris was able to stop Falcao on a breakaway, played through by Juan Mata. Lloris also stymied Robin Van Persie open on a through ball also played by Mata. Even, Mata was unlucky on his free kick attempt on goal, striking the right post, and its rebound being cleared off the line. Ashley Young also menaced the net with a curled shot from the corner of the 18-yard box, parried away by Lloris.
United earned four points in two matches, maintaining their 3rd place position in the league table. Louis Van Gaal will be anxious about yet another misfire in an away match, United have only won two matches on the road so far this campaign. Yet, he will be encouraged by the return of injured players to the side and the recent form and performances of key players. David De Gea maintained his current run of form earning another clean sheet and nearly two, if a foul in the penalty area was avoided in the Newcastle match. Ashley Young performed extremely well this weekend, turning in two impressive performances, particularly against Tottenham, as he created a host of chances, not only for others but also for himself. Wayne Rooney has been in top form recently. United's form on the road will be tested New Year's Day against Stoke City. The match will be aired on NBC Sports Network at 7:45AM ET.