MANCHESTER, England — 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.
"They understand there's a big transition going on here," Moyes said. "I don't think they or me expected us to have lost five games by this time of the season, but I think they understand there is a change going on."
After Wednesday's 1-0 home loss to Everton, Moyes' former club, United 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.
"Because we are Manchester United, we have to be better," Moyes said. "Play better, pass it better, create more chances."
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 deserved its win, though. Its ball retention was far superior to the champions and its defense, which often has been suspect this season, stood firm as a late rally from United after Cabaye's goal failed to materialize.
"We won't get the headlines because for poor old David, it's a disappointing result for them. But we deserve the headlines," said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, whose side has also beaten Chelsea and Tottenham this season.
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 and almost took the lead late in the first half 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 drew 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 Evra's poor header set Moussa Sissoko free down the right and he crossed for fellow Frenchman Cabaye to sidefoot a finish into the bottom corner.
Van Persie had a header ruled out, but Newcastle saw the victory out with surprising ease, sparking a smattering of jeers and boos from United fans.
"The best thing the club can do is stick by him in these difficult days," Pardew said.