By STEVE DOUGLAS
2013-12-07 11:01 PM
MANCHESTER, England (AP) -- Manchester United slumped to back-to-back home defeats in the Premier League for the first time in 11 years by losing 1-0 to Newcastle on Saturday, deepening the troubles facing the champions in David Moyes' first season in charge.
Yohan Cabaye's 61st-minute goal earned Newcastle its first win at Old Trafford since 1972 and ensured United has picked up just two points from its last four games to slip way off the pace in its title defense.
Without the suspended Wayne Rooney, United lacked inspiration and creativity in another lackluster performance that will severely test the patience of fans who are intent on giving Moyes time after replacing Alex Ferguson in the offseason.
After Wednesday's 1-0 home loss to Everton, United had slumped to ninth place in the standings -- 12 points behind leader Arsenal -- with its title defense already appearing in tatters. Moyes' side could be even further adrift come Sunday night after Arsenal hosts Everton.
Fears are even growing that a top-four spot, and therefore Champions League qualification, may be difficult to secure and this setback will hardly convince supporters that the immediate future is bright.
Dissent festered throughout Old Trafford as United labored, often resorting to long, hopeful balls forward. Robin van Persie -- back after a month out with groin and toe problems -- lacked sharpness, although he had a goal disallowed in the 73rd minute for offside, and Rooney's absence was keenly felt.
Newcastle came into the game off a sobering 3-0 defeat at Swansea, which ended its four-match winning run, but grew in confidence as the match wore on.
The visitors' energetic midfield saw plenty of the ball early on but the only real chance of the first half came in injury time when right back Mathieu Debuchy nipped in behind Patrice Evra and had a low shot saved by David de Gea.
Tom Cleverley had spurned an early opening for United, stabbing a weak shot at Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul, but the hosts looked flustered and passes were misplaced with alarming regularity. One from Van Persie toward Adnan Januzaj went straight into touch and the groans from the crowd were audible.
Moyes stood in his technical area with his hands in his pockets for much of the first half but he was almost jumping in celebration in the 52nd when Javier Hernandez, filling in for Rooney, ran onto Van Persie's pass and brought a smart save from Krul.
The crowd found its voice and United responded, with Evra heading goalward from a corner only for the ball to hit the post and rebound onto the arm of Vurnon Anita. No penalty was given, though.
Newcastle was coming under pressure but broke out to take the lead in the 61st when Moussa Sissoko beat Evra down the right and crossed for Cabaye to sidefoot a finish into the bottom corner.
Van Persie had a header ruled out, but Newcastle saw the victory out with ease, sparking a smattering of jeers and boos from United fans.