Matt Ritchie’s strike proved the difference on an afternoon when relegation-threatened Newcastle dug deep, stuck together and gave their all – a performance that second-placed Red Devils were no match for.
“Poor,” Jones said of his side’s display. “Poor. We started slow and sloppy. The crowd were on their feet, they got momentum.
“We gained a bit of momentum midway through the first half. Second half we had a few chances, cleared off the line but, you know, we’re not kidding ourselves. We were not good enough today.”
Jones conceded it “wasn’t about luck” in Sunday’s defeat given Mourinho’s side put in a meek, undercooked display that they can ill-afford to repeat.
“We started too slow and couldn’t get to the rhythm of our game,” the England international told MUTV.
“For whatever reason, we weren’t good enough today and we’ll have to play a lot better than that if we’re going to kick on and improve.
“You know, they didn’t (create a lot of chances) even when the crowd were on their feet and had a few half chances, (even though) the crowd think it’s sort of a one-on-one.
“We had a few chances ourselves, could have scored, but I think the result was probably fair. I don’t think we deserved to win the game today.”
While Jones spoke to broadcasters, the other Manchester United players skulked out of St James’ Park onto the team coach as Liverpool were beating Southampton.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds are now third and within two points of Mourinho’s men, with just six points separating second from fifth – a gap that could shrink further on Monday evening.
“A lot of teams around us keep drawing, losing points and there is a lot still to play for,” Jones said when asked about the top four given leaders Manchester City now boast a surely insurmountable 16-point cushion.
“It was a disappointing day, but we have to go again. That’s all we can do, that’s all we know. We’re disappointed, we’re devastated, but we have to improve.”
The visitors’ post-match emotions understandably contrasted starkly with Newcastle’s after a victory to cherish.
It was a particularly special afternoon for goalkeeper Martin Dubravka – the imposing January loan signing from Sparta Prague, who produced a man-of-the-match display on his debut.
“I feel amazing, we won and that is the most important thing,” the Newcastle shot-stopper said.
“But also it was my first game and my debut, so I am very happy that we won. I only knew two hours before the game that I would play.
“The coach told me what the line-up was going to be, and I tried to stay calm and focus on the game. Knowing I was playing was an amazing feeling.
“To know you will play in a competitive game with a big club was great. We have to realise this is a big club and we have to fight for things. I am so happy that I won on my debut.”
It’s not surprising to see Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero in close competition for the Premier League Golden Boot, but at the start of the season, nobody would have backed Mohamed Salah to be neck-and-neck with the two established Premier League strikers in this race. He’s not even a striker, remember?
Yet there he is, after having scored his 22nd league goal of the season in Liverpool‘s 2-0 win over Southampton on Sunday. The Golden Boot is there for the taking, and he’s building a strong case to win player of the year awards at the end of the season – although Kevin De Bruyne is still probably the frontrunner for those.
Here are seven deadly stats that confirm Salah’s brilliance this season.
WAND OF A LEFT FOOT
A massive 19 of Salah’s league goals have come with his magical left foot, which puts him joint-top of the list for most left-footed goals in a Premier League season. The other man to hit 19 was Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, who did so in the 1994-95 season.
Don’t forget, teams played 42 games in a season back then, and Fowler played in every one of Liverpool’s competitive fixtures that term. Salah has reached the 19-goal tally in just 26 appearances.
Mohamed Salah equals @premierleague record of most left-footed goals in a PL season, 19 of his 22 coming from his left foot – equals Robbie Fowler’s record set in 1994-95.
Top PL scorers this season
21 Aguero pic.twitter.com/4MbciscMoP
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 11, 2018
ANOTHER LIVERPOOL RECORD
No one has ever had a better debut season for Liverpool. That’s not just a case of being wowed by recent exploits – statistically, there hasn’t been a player who’s been directly involved in more goals in his first season for Liverpool than Salah this campaign. And there are still 11 games to go.
29 – Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in 29 @premierleague goals this season (22 goals, 7 assists); the most by a @LFC player in their debut season for the club in the competition. Heroic. pic.twitter.com/4YNjRW3Xqg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 11, 2018
PREMIER LEAGUE’S BEST ATTACKER?
The 29 goal involvements also place him atop the list for Premier League players this season. No other player with at least seven assists has cracked even the 10-goal mark so far, let alone 20.
Meanwhile, among the top goalscorers, he’s leading the way in terms of assists – Kane only has one, while Manchester City‘s Aguero and Raheem Sterling have five and six, respectively. And Salah far outstrips Kane and Aguero in terms of key passes – 44 to the Argentine’s 34 and the Tottenham man’s 27.
🎶 MO SALAH, MO SALAH, MO SALAH… 🎶
Another goal to add to the tally. 💥 pic.twitter.com/1tEdNhdt93
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 11, 2018
It’s a slightly surprising stat – 19 of Salah’s goals have come from inside the box. Only Kane and Aguero can top that, with 20 each – which shows just how developed Salah’s predatory instincts are. He might have a penchant for beautiful goals, but he comes alive in the box, and that awareness is arguably his greatest asset.
🗣 “He’s as good as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.”
— Fan Antics (@FanAnticsFC) February 12, 2018
BETTER FINISHER THAN KANE?
Kane is routinely held up as the best striker in the country – and there’s no doubting his ability or record. But given that Salah has nearly the same number of goals this season, it’s worth comparing the two goalscorers.
Salah’s assist numbers are far ahead but it’s his prowess as a goalscorer that really stands out. He scores at a quicker rate compared to Kane – 92.5 minutes per goal compared to 96.9 – and requires fewer shots to score, 82 compared to 109. That puts Salah’s conversion rate at 27 per cent, whereas Kane’s is 21 per cent, and Salah scores from 45 per cent of his shots on target, while Kane only registers 37 per cent.
🤔Who would you rather have?🤔
⚪Kane or Salah?🔴 pic.twitter.com/KOURDUIRhd
— ⚽️442oons⚽️ (@442oons) February 4, 2018
GUNNING FOR DROGBA’S RECORD
Didier Drogba won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2009-10 with 29 goals that season. That’s the most by any African player in a single season – but could Salah break that record?
Eight goals in 11 games is no easy feat, but with his form this season, you’d have to back him to break that record – and create another milestone in the process.
1️⃣1️⃣ games left
8️⃣ goals needed
— BT Sport Score (@btsportscore) February 12, 2018
THE PARTNERSHIP DRIVING LIVERPOOL
Salah is the headline act at Liverpool, but what he’s also got is an excellent strike partner, and it showed again on Sunday. The Egyptian and Roberto Firmino both scored in the 2-0 win. But more than that, each one set the other up for a goal, showcasing the relationship the two players have on the pitch.
Liverpool are the only Premier League side with two players involved in 30+ goals across all competitions this season thanks to the efforts of Salah (29 goals, 8 assists) and Firmino (20 goals, 11 assists)
*Stats compiled using Opta
Matt Ritchie’s second-half strike was what separated the two sides at St James’ Park.
The visitors missed a host of chances but their finishing wasn’t the only thing that was below par on the day.
Here are three things we learned from the encounter.
SMALLING’S UNITED CAREER ON THE LINE
Chris Smalling has always gone through patches of good form over the course of his time at United but apart from one season under Louis van Gaal, has never seemed like a reliable option in the back-line.
The Englishman had a horrendous outing against Newcastle. After a clumsy handball, he was lucky not to concede penalty for a tackle just inside the area and went on to dive, yes dive, in his own half, handing the hosts a free-kick that led to the goal.
It’s now eight years since he arrived at Old Trafford but he’s still playing like someone who could maybe be a really good defender.
Phil Jones has been in great form this term but is injury prone while Eric Bailly, for all his great qualities, shares the Englishman’s affinity with the treatment table.
As a result, Jose Mourinho could well spend big on a centre-back in the summer, particularly after insisting there won’t be any new arrivals in attack. In that case, Smalling could be the one to make way, perhaps along with Daley Blind who has already become surplus to requirements.
UNITED’S MIDFIELD IN DIRE STRAITS
Nemanja Matic was drafted in over the summer in an effort to bring control and security to United’s engine room. To the Serbian’s credit, he did just that. Up to a point.
However, the defensive midfielder has notably gone off the boil a bit in the second-half of the season after being a permanent fixture in the starting eleven pretty much throughout the campaign.
He seems to be suffering from fatigue and needs a rest at some point. He was well off the pace in the first-half and was caught out by Newcastle’s energy in midfield on more than one occasion, although he gradually grew into the game and his defence-splitting pass created the best chance of the opening period for Anthony Martial.
Paul Pogba’s abysmal display on the other hand is a much bigger mystery. The Frenchman has all the attributes of a world class midfielder but hasn’t produced his best on a regular basis. Whether it’s down to him as an individual or the system he’s deployed in, United need him to come good.
Ander Herrera still remains out of favour with Mourinho, only making fleeting appearances while Scott McTominay can’t have too much thrown on him in his maiden campaign with the senior side.
With Michael Carrick expected to hang up his boots at the end of the season as well, perhaps Mourinho will have to invest in the midfield department again in the summer.
SECOND PLACE UP FOR GRABS
Manchester City are well out of sight and have the title all but sewn up while United have been leading the way among the rest.
However, after back-to-back away defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle, the Reds’ second spot in the table is in jeopardy. With a 2-0 win away to Southampton, Liverpool have moved to within two points of United.
Jurgen Klopp’s side appear to have momentum on their side as well while Tottenham fall into the same bracket.
After United’s performance on Sunday, it’s conceivable that they could be dragged into a fierce battle for a spot in the top four with Chelsea and Arsenal also fighting to keep pace.