That is no longer the case, yet Tuesday's encounter at St James' Park is no less important, with both teams still in desperate need of the three points.
Results may suggest otherwise, but Newcastle's performances under Steve McClaren's management have picked up over recent weeks.
Their last four outings - including the FA Cup tie away at Watford last time out - have all ended in 1-0 defeats. In the most recent losses - versus the Hornets and away at Arsenal - the Magpies actually created the better of the chances.
It all goes to show just where their problems lie at present. Without a goal since December 19, the Tynesiders have found the net just 19 times from their 20 Premier League outings this term - only bottom-placed Aston Villa have scored fewer.
With that in mind, it is little surprise that McClaren has been strongly linked with bolstering his attacking options during this month's transfer window. After all, Newcastle's most clinical strikers since the start of the season are Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez (4), but neither has scored in a month.
Yet, while displays may have improved, the long and the short of it is that McClaren's men are in the relegation zone, two points from safety.
A win over visiting United could potentially lift them out of the bottom three, although that would also require help from rivals Sunderland, who travel to 17th-placed Swansea City a day later.
Recent form: WDLLLL
Even in victory, criticism aimed at United manager Louis van Gaal has intensified.
As the Dutchman headed towards the Stretford End and the tunnel following his side's home FA Cup encounter against Sheffield United, he was greeted with jeers and a number of supporters issuing him with the thumbs down.
The patrons were reacting to another 90 minutes of football in which the team had failed to excite them. In fact, the League One Blades would have earned themselves a replay had midfielder Dean Hammond not had a rush of blood to the head in stoppage time when he brought down Memphis Depay inside the box and Wayne Rooney dispatched the resultant penalty.
Paul Scholes, who in punditry appears to have found his voice, claimed after the game that the United players "looked bored". The fact that their first shot on target did not arrive until the 69th minute would suggest that the club's former midfielder is not far off the mark.
It has all only served to enhance the feeling that it is matter of when and not if time is called on Van Gaal's Old Trafford tenure.
One recent report has claimed that were the Red Devils to lose to either Newcastle tomorrow or the old enemy Liverpool at Anfield at the weekend, the Glazer family have decided to wield the axe.
Recent form: LLLDWW
Depay impressed as a second-half substitute against Sheffield United, which may earn him a recall to the starting lineup for this trip to the North-East.
His inclusion may come at the expense of Juan Mata, who was hauled off after the restart in the same game following a rather anonymous outing.
As for Newcastle, Emmanuel Riviere, Jack Colback and Rolando Aarons are all said to be pushing for returns from injury, although it remains to be seen if McClaren will throw any of that trio straight back into the team.
Newcastle possible starting lineup:
Elliot; Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett, Janmaat; Sissoko, Tiote, Wijnaldum, Thauvin, De Jong; Mitrovic
Man United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Depay, Herrera, Martial; Rooney
Head To Head
Aside from the 0-0 draw that they claimed from their trip to Manchester earlier this season, Newcastle have a rotten recent record against United.
Of the last eight meetings between the duo, United have run out winners on six occasions.
They have also enjoyed their last three trips to St James' Park, having won each time without conceding a goal.
The overall head to head record reads 83-41 in United's favour, with 38 draws being played out.
We say: Newcastle 0-0 Man United
Newcastle have been unable to bulge the back of the net in half of their last 10 Premier League matches, while during the same time period United have failed to score six times. With both sides badly lacking imagination in the final third at present, a 0-0 draw would not be a surprise.