Manchester United lost even more ground on rivals City on Sunday with a surprise 1-0 defeat at Newcastle.
Jose Mourinho must consider St. James’ Park as something of a bogey ground for him, having newer tasted victory there, and that run continued thanks to Matt Ritchie’s second-half winner, topped off by a fine performance from new Magpies goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
If anything typified Man United’s poor display, then it is surely the fact that they were the architects of their own downfall when it came to the goal they conceded. Defender Chris Smalling, with Jonjo Shelvey bearing down on him, inexplicably threw himself to the ground in a bid to win a free kick.
That Chris Smalling Dive ? pic.twitter.com/agJYbNLPNK
— Josh Greaves (@GR3AVESY) February 11, 2018
Referee Craig Pawson saw right through the England international’s attempt at deceit, booked Smalling and awarded Newcastle the free kick. Shelvey himself lofted the free into the box, and the ball fell invitingly for Ritchie who placed past David de Gea to send Rafa Benitz’s side on their way to a valuable three points.
Afterwards, Smalling was the subject of ridicule from neutrals, with Man United fans furious at what they had witnessed from the centre-half.
When you concede a goal from a freekick that’s conceded because your central defender has dived. Fuck off Smalling.
— Scott Patterson (@R_o_M) February 11, 2018
Phil Jones: ‘F*ck, that own goal against Spurs was embarrassing. Won’t see anything that bad this season.’
Chris Smalling: ‘Hold my beer.’
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) February 11, 2018
Chris Smalling joined United eight years ago last month but sometimes plays like he joined at Christmas. Given a handball away, should have given a penalty away and dived to give a free-kick away from which Newcastle score. #mufc
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 11, 2018
Smalling booked for diving in midfield. Shelvey puts free-kick in the box, knocked down and Ritchie in acres of space scores. Ridiculous goal to concede.
— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonESPN) February 11, 2018
Smalling dive leading to a goal. What an embarrassment, had a feeling it would him who cost us.
— Hesham Bilal-Hafiz (@hesham786) February 11, 2018
We lost that game due to Chris Smalling diving and conceding a free kick. Astonishing. #mufc
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) February 11, 2018
Newcastle scoring from a free-kick they got because Chris Smalling dived near the halfway line.
Liquidize it. Inject it.
— Der Kopite (@DerKopite) February 11, 2018
Smalling there, rivalling Alli for worst dive of the season.
— Joel Rabinowitz (@joel_archie) February 11, 2018
That goal came as a result of a pathetic dive by Smalling. I don’t care who it is I hate diving, should be fined a weeks wages.
— James Kenny (@JamesyCantona) February 11, 2018
The defeat leaves Man United 16 points behind Man City and, with Man City running away with the title, leaves Mourinho and his side looking over their shoulder slightly nervously in the battle for the top four.