Rafa Benitez watched on as Newcastle threw away two points at Aston Villa, after controlling the game and wasting chances it was United who were pressed back and being overrun in midfield during the final stages.
Asked about his choice of matchday squad, Rafa confirmed that Jack Colback was missing with a knock – but that Chancel Mbemba has been left out for tactical reasons.
Anticipating a more physical threat from Aston Villa, Rafa chose to play Ciaran Clark instead, plus even on the bench he admits he chose to have Grant Hanley rather than the DR Congo defender, just in case he needed to call on an additional bigger/physical defender from the bench.
For many Newcastle fans the turning point in the game was when DeAndre Yedlin was forced off with an ankle injury in the 75th minute.
Yedlin had been arguably Newcastle’s best player with his pace a big plus in both defence and attack, so losing him was a blow as Newcastle tried to see out the match.
However, even worse was the fact that Rafa Benitez had nobody he could bring on to play right-back in place of the former Tottenham player.
Isaac Hayden moved to full-back but didn’t look comfortable, whilst even worse was the fact that Cheick Tiote looked totally off the pace as he replaced Hayden in his central midfield spot.
Shelvey isn’t the most mobile at the best of times and he and Tiote really struggled as Villa swarmed forward with nothing to lose.
You have to wonder if Rafa is now regretting leaving out Chancel Mbemba. Having seen what transpired I think he would have been better off having both Hanley and Mbemba on the bench, rather than Tiote.
Chancel Mbemba could have easily slotted in at right-back and Isaac Hayden stay in position to help stem that late Villa pressure. Mbemba has also played defensive midfield in the past and I think would even have been preferable to Tiote in midfield.
Maybe a good call to play Ciaran Clark on Saturday, he was very good, though possibly Chancel Mbemba should have only been dropped to the bench – not from the matchday squad.
“Chancel Mbemba was fine but I thought for maybe these kind of games, Hanley could help in the final minutes.
However, I did not want to make a change in the last minute because we were defending more or less (all of the time) and to put another player on, another defender, would be to invite them to continue attacking.
“I thought that we could create something on the counter-attack but that was not the case.
“To have Grant Hanley on the bench instead of Mbemba was because of the size of him – he is strong.”