Andre Onana played the pantomime villain at St James’ Park as he was whistled by Newcastle fans… but the under-fire Man United keeper survived his test of character and was one of Erik ten Hag’s best players
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  • Andre Onana arrived at St James’ Park under pressure after midweek struggles
  • But the Manchester United goalkeeper was one of his side’s best performers
  • Raphael Varane row is undermining United boss Erik ten Hag – It’s All Kicking Off

The Newcastle fans ooh-ed and aah-ed every time he touched the ball, like Andre Onana was some kind of pantomime villain. They whistled in derision when he played up to the part by taking his time to restart play. They howled when he fell over taking a goal kick.

In that sense, this was more of a test for Manchester United’s under-fire goalkeeper on a freezing night on Tyneside than anything he faced in the furnace of Galatasaray in midweek.

Onana’s latest shaky performance in Istanbul had put him on the hook again, and the Newcastle supporters weren’t about to let him off it.

Erik ten Hag’s refusal to drop him and insistence that he is statistically the second-best goalkeeper in the Premier League had created its own kind of pressure as well.

Ten Hag pointed to the fact that Onana had been excellent at Burnley in September after he was at fault for another Champions League goal against Bayern Munich and, to be fair to the Cameroonian, he responded very well in the circumstances here too.

Newcastle fans ooh-ed and aah-ed every time Andre Onana touched the ball at St James' Park

Newcastle fans ooh-ed and aah-ed every time Andre Onana touched the ball at St James’ Park

The Man United goalkeeper arrived at Newcastle under immense pressure after recent struggles

The Man United goalkeeper arrived at Newcastle under immense pressure after recent struggles

In a team full of chronically under-achieving United players, he was one of the better ones.

Even more so when you take account of the fact that he was targeted by the Newcastle fans from start to finish, and could hardly hide from the abuse dressed all in lime green – including leggings to fight off the cold.

Newcastle’s failure to score in the first half was more down to their own shortcomings in front of goal from 14 attempts, but there was one excellent save from Onana when he lunged to his right to turn away an effort from Miguel Almiron.

There were some wobbly moments, too, when he aimed a weak punch at Kieran Trippier’s corner and then gratefully clutched hold of the ball after a free kick from the Newcastle defender rattled his bar shortly afterwards. 

Or the mix-up with Diogo Dalot when Onana came off his line and Dalot almost put the ball past him with a fluffed clearance.

It was Dalot’s back-pass after less than 90 seconds of this match that had brought the first round of heckles aimed in Onana’s direction, setting the stage for the rest of this rather one-sided contest.

Onana was only beaten when Anthony Gordon fired Newcastle ahead in the second half

Onana was only beaten when Anthony Gordon fired Newcastle ahead in the second half

Onana made several impressive interventions to help United get out of difficult situations

Onana made several impressive interventions to help United get out of difficult situations

Onana had been backed by Man United manager Erik ten Hag in the build-up to Saturday's match

Onana had been backed by Man United manager Erik ten Hag in the build-up to Saturday’s match

He had plenty more to worry about as Newcastle swarmed all over United, getting in behind them and peppering his goal. Alexander Isak was particularly wasteful.

You thought United had to get better after half-time but they really didn’t. When Newcastle’s long overdue first goal finally arrived in the second half, there was little Onana could do about it. 

United’s desperate rearguard action couldn’t hold out any longer and Antony Gordon was unmarked in front of goal to convert Trippier’s cross.

But at the end of another difficult night for his team, Onana will be relieved that he emerged from a severe test of character without any more dramas.

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