Van Gaal’s team looked set to lose ground on their rivals in the race for the top four places, with his fellow Dutchman Tim Krul providing the heroics in the Newcastle goal, before the keeper gifted Young his first goal in 14 months with just a minute to go.
The match was heading towards a draw before Wayne Rooney made a late break and Krul could only divert his attempted clearance to Young, who coolly finished at the far post. It was a priceless goal, with all of United’s rivals winning and keeps Van Gaal’s team well and truly in the hunt for the top four following a run of just two defeats in 22 league games.
Although it was tough luck on Newcastle it was also a poignant day for the Magpies as winger Jonas Gutierrez wore the famous black and white stripes for the first time in 17 months following his cancer scare, coming on as a second half substitute.
Young, whose last goal was in January 2014 against Cardiff City, said: “It was a hard fought win but we got our just reward. We always knew we would get a chance and luckily I put it away. It was great work by Wayne and I just steadied myself before putting it away. We got the goal, we got the three points and that’s what we wanted before kick-off.
“We just concentrate on ourselves and listen to the manager. We have got a great team bond here and we all have to fight for our places. We’re delighted.”
The first real chance fell to John Carver’s side as the home support howled for a 10th minute penalty as Emmanuel Riviere wriggled away from Chris Smalling’s challenge and was sent tumbling to the ground. It looked every inch a spot kick, but despite angry protests from the St James’ Park faithful, referee Anthony Taylor waved away the penalty claim.
Minutes later and Rooney intelligently created a yard of space deep in the Magpies box for Ander Herrera, who flashed his right foot shot wide of the upright.
Midway through the half Rooney fluffed a glorious opportunity as Young’s heavy touch fell to the England skipper with just Krul to beat. Rooney spun and dinked his shot past the advancing Dutch keeper but the ball rolled just past the post, with Newcastle defenders en masse incorrectly demanding the offside flag.
A rare mistake by Fabricio Coloccini on the flank let in his fellow countryman Angel Di Maria, who raced towards the box and crossed for Rooney, only for the United striker to lose control at the vital moment, allowing Krul to burst off his line and smother the chance.
At the other end Smalling got in front of Mike Williamson as the Magpies defender threatened to convert at the far post, before the visitors restored their first half dominance as Antonio Valencia picked out Marouane Fellaini, whose downward header was brilliantly saved by Krul.
With almost the last kick of the half Moussa Sissoko threaded an enticing ball through to Riviere, who joined Newcastle last summer for £5million from Monaco and showed just why he has yet to score in the Premier League. The Frenchman never looked remotely likely to beat David De Gea and embarrassingly slipped in the process of shooting.
After the break Marcos Rojo fired a foot over Krul’s bar before Riviere missed another golden opportunity to put his side ahead, as Coloccini’s header fell to him in the six yard box, but the mis-firing striker prodded his shot weakly and De Gea parried away his effort on the line.
De Gea’s stop was soon put in the shade as Krul produced a remarkable double save to deny the visitors. The Dutchman, a star of last summer’s World Cup finals for his penalty shoot-out heroics against Costa Rica, flung himself to his right to save from Fellaini, then got up and parried Young’s blast.
After 65 minutes St James’ Park rose to its feet in unison as Jonas Gutierrez made his return after 17 months on the sidelines following treatment for testicular cancer. The Argentine winger replaced Ryan Taylor and was immediately handed the captain’s armband by Coloccini.
Within two minutes Gutierrez was given a yellow card for a foul on Adnan Januzaj and seconds later Cisse badly scuffed his shot wide with just De Gea to beat, following a sterling run by Riviere.
It was just left to Young to provide the killer finish which keeps them gunning for the top four – a cruel result for Newcastle, with Krul a hero, then villain.
NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Krul 7; R Taylor 5(Gutierrez 65,6), Coloccini 5, Williamson 6, Janmaat 7; Abeid 7, Obertan 6, Ameobi 4(Gouffran 81,6), Sissoko 7; Riviere 6(Perez 59,6), Cisse 6.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-5-1): De Gea 7; Valencia 7, Smalling 6, Evans 6, Rojo 6(Carrick 88,6); Herrera 7, Blind 6, Fellaini 6(Mata 82,6), Young 6, Di Maria 6(Januzaj 59,6); Rooney 7.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).