Manchester United could have played for 10 hours at Newcastle and not scored, said manager Jose Mourinho after his side’s 1-0 loss at St James’ Park.
Matt Ritchie’s 65th-minute goal consigned the Red Devils to their fifth league defeat of the season.
Mourinho’s side, who had 13 shots – six on target, now trail league leaders Manchester City by 16 points.
“The gods of football were clearly in their side,” said the Portuguese. “It wasn’t going to happen for us today.”
Ritchie scored the only goal of the game when he collected a Dwight Gayle flick to shoot past David de Gea after Florian Lejeune had knocked down Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick.
Defeat extended Mourinho’s winless run in the Premier League at St James’ Park to seven matches.
The former Chelsea boss said Newcastle had “played like animals” to win at home in the league for the first time since October.
“My verdict is we could’ve been here for 10 hours and not scored a goal,” he said.
“They got from us a defensive mistake, and from a lateral free-kick they scored. They must have an amazing feeling after giving absolutely everything.
“They fought for their points and when they went in front, they gave their lives to keep a clean sheet. I think it’s a beautiful way to win a football match.”
Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard all missed chances for the visitors, with Newcastle’s debutant goalkeeper Martin Dubravka – a January loan signing – in fine form.
“We had some [chances] with the score at 0-0,” said Mourinho. “Alexis [Sanchez] had an open goal and then the countless opportunities of the last 20-25 minutes. The double [miss] of Martial is incredible in the last minute.”
The free-kick which led to Ritchie’s goal came when Red Devils centre-back Chris Smalling was adjudged to have dive.
Mourinho was reluctant to be too critical of the 28-year-old England international, saying: “A defender has to concede free-kicks now and again. It was an intuitive thing.
“Players who do it in the box deserve a card more than Smalling in that situation. Clearly I know we lost the duel in the air, and it’s difficult to accept that.”
Phil Jones, Smalling’s central-defensive partner, said the players were “devastated” by the defeat, which leaves them just two points ahead of third-placed Liverpool, who beat Southampton 2-0.
“We didn’t show up. We started slow. They pressed us, the crowd were on their feet,” said Jones.
“We got control midway through the first half and should have scored but we weren’t at the races, we weren’t good enough, simple as.
“For whatever reason we weren’t good enough. Ultimately we have conceded a sloppy goal. The lads are devastated in the dressing room.”