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Match Reports

Manchester United v Newcastle Match Report – Most Complete Tactics, Stats and Analysis

8 years ago

Manchester United v Newcastle Match Report

Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 1

Saturday 7 December 12.45pm

Following a humbling 3-0 away defeat to Swansea midweek, Newcastle United had had their top four aspirations – still embryonic at this stage – thoroughly clipped. Swansea bossed the game and dominated possession, sending the Magpies back to the North East with their tail between their legs.

Both Newcastle full backs were excellent at providing width and pushed up high.

However, Manchester United, who also lost midweek, would be a different beast to Swansea entirely. In previous years going to Old Trafford would be an intimidating experience, Manchester United’s record against Newcastle at home well documented (prior to Saturday’s match they hadn’t lost in 41 years).

But with David Moyes at the helm and after a truly rocky start to the season, Alan Pardew and the Geordie faithful were confident if the team could play well then a point, or even three, could be on the cards.


Alan Pardew changed both the team and the formation for the game. Shola Ameobi, who is likely to feel the strain of midweek matches considering his poor fitness, was dropped to the bench with Vurnon Anita taking his place, slotting into a three man midfield.

Newcastle set up in 4-2-3-1 but Yohan Cabaye – playing a sort of Number 10 role – wasn’t afraid to drop deeper and get involved in defensive grunt work. Both he, Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko were going to have to work hard to support Loic Remy, playing as a lone striker for the first time in a black and white shirt.

David Moyes on the other hand made a string of changes. There was no place in the squad for either of Marouane Fellaini and Shinji Kagawa. Since the match it has been revealed the latter of which suffered a stomach problem whereas Fellaini has just not measured up to his price tag in Manchester yet.

In the centre of Man U’s maligned midfield was Phil Jones and Tom Cleverly with Adnan Januzaj on the right wing and Luis Nani on the left. Up front Robin Van Persie was (allegedly) fit again partnering Javier Hernandez up front. Although Moyes may have made a several changes, he was happy to stick with 4-4-2.


Against Swansea, Newcastle had attempted to play on the counter attack and appeared happy enough to cede possession to their opponents in the hope of catching them over committing. With Anita introduced in the midfield it was obvious that wasn’t to be the plan against Manchester United.

From the first whistle the team kept the ball well and out passed Man U, looking confident on the ball, playing with the sort of arrogance teams could only dream of when playing at Old Trafford with Sir Alex Ferguson in charge.

A powerhouse performance from the Ivorian whose passes often encourage the full backs to get forward

Cheick Tiote, whose form has been at the very heart of Newcastle’s terrific run of results, stamped his authority on the game from the off, making tackles, interceptions and generally breaking up Man U’s play with ease.

In the 24th minute Tiote made an interception (all game he made four) high up the pitch and passed it to Cabaye (the pair passed to each other in total 31 times all game) but the Frenchman hooked his shot wide. It was a perfect example both of Tiote’s combativeness and Cabaye’s being allowed to play further forward.

The three midfielders had a different role which they each performed well. Tiote was the destroyer (five tackles, the highest in the game), Anita was the recycler (49 passes at 86% completion) who seldom broke forward and Cabaye was the creator (three shots and one key pass) who also provided an outlet to hold up the ball on the floor, rather than just aerially with long balls – something Newcastle struggled to do last season when without Ameobi.

In the first 20 minutes Newcastle shaded possession 53-47% and looked comfortable. Not only that but early on in the game Sissoko, playing in a very advanced role, showed how dangerous he can be beating two men and almost scoring an early goal. As it was Sissoko played well all game, making four dribbles, three key passes and forcing five turnovers.


In truth it was a poor first half of football with the two best chances of note both falling to Mathieu Debuchy at the end. In the first he caught his compatriot Patrice Evra napping and stole in for a thunderous shot on goal to be fisted away by David De Gea. The second was an attacking header comfortably saved by the Spaniard.

But the fact Debuchy was able to push up so high and help in attack proved just how dominant Newcastle were in controlling possession and the tempo of play. With Van Persie dropping off the attack to try and help out his outnumbered midfield he wasn’t where he needed to be – on the sharp end of attacks. Perhaps the most shocking statistic of the game was evident at the end: Van Persie didn’t manage a single shot all game either on or off target. Manchester United fans will point to his lack of match fitness as the underlying issues but the defensive orders given to him by Moyes certainly blunted the Dutchman’s threat.

Back to the Newcastle full backs. Earlier in the season they were derided for pushing up too often and getting caught out. They’re several games wiser and the pair are now some of the most reliable in the league. They were both helped by the knowledge that Anita was staying back and Gouffran and Sissoko could put covering runs in but the fact Debuchy managed more touches in the opposition half than his own is staggering, especially away from home. This also points to a weakness of Man U.


Although the first half may have been poor, Newcastle were still able to showcase dominance in almost all areas of the field. Possession was edged by the Magpies and they also completed 85% of their passes compared to United’s 77%. Newcastle had won 71% of the aerial battles and their only flaw was giving away fouls (eight in total in the first half).

Perhaps more telling was that Hernandez only managed 11 touches in the first half. This is all well and good if you’re a poacher but Hernandez didn’t manage a single shot in the first half.  With Newcastle’s midfield so dominant you might have expected a change from Moyes at half time but he decided against it. He didn’t have the options off the bench he would have liked, the only central midfielder being Anderson who has struggled for form and fitness his entire Manchester United career.


One of the most dangerous strikers in the league was reduced to playing in midfield

On Saturday Manchester United were boxing with one hand tied behind their back. While Januzaj and Rafael played well on the right (42% of their attacks came down the right and 25% of their shots), Evra and Nani offered much less going forward and Debuchy and Sissoko got on top of them.

This dependency on attacking mostly down the right hand side, or at least having the most joy there to begin with, meant it was easy for Tiote to know which side he had to cover. As it turned out Januzaj was a ball of tricks and early on one of Manchester United’s most dangerous players. Newcastle had to resort to the most medieval way of stopping him – fouls. By the end of the game Januzaj had been fouled five times, the most for anyone on the pitch with Anita guilty of a cynical foul on the hot prospect more than once (Anita gave away four fouls all game).

Perhaps the biggest proof that Debuchy won the battle of the French full backs was that while both had a similar defensive display (Five tackles each, Debuchy made four interceptions to Evra’s three), Debuchy was able to produce two good shots on targets, draw two fouls and win 75% of his aerial battles. Evra on the other hand only managed to win 29%.


Cleverly and Jones were overwhelmed on Saturday and chasing shadows for much of the game defensively and unable to provide any real service to the strikers going forward.

When Cleverly was taken off in the 69th minute he had racked up a relatively impressive 55 touches but it’s a struggle to point out any real influence he had in the game. It is obvious the midfielder is shorn of confidence and his display was another example of why Man U so desperately need a dynamic attacking force in the centre of midfield. Cleverly managed just one key pass and two shots (both of which were off target). Cleverly could well have a future at Manchester United, in a similar role to Anita for Newcastle, but with the pressure of being the creative hub for one of the biggest teams in Europe, he’s currently struggling.

His midfield partner Jones showed a great deal of tenacity in defence, making three tackles and winning 100% of his aerial battles but he looked lost, unsure of when to break forward and when to stay back. One time he did go forward Cleverly failed in picking up Cabaye who drifted into the box unmarked and slotted past De Gea, albeit via a Vidic deflection. Where did Newcastle’s attack come from? Down the Manchester United left of course.


10 minutes into the second half and Manchester United had their best spell of the game. In the 52nd minute Van Persie came deep and played possibly the pass of the day all of 50 yards to the feet of Hernandez, who shot at the feet of Krul. Minutes later Januzaj shot and was comfortably saved by Krul.

In the 55th minute a corner was headed by Evra onto the post and onto the hand of Anita, who was placed on the post probably because of his diminutive stature challenging for aerial balls. It could have been a penalty but seeing how the Magpies should have got one against Swansea it was perhaps justice Manchester United didn’t get one.

Pardew could see Man United were growing into the game and wanted to offer more of a direct threat. Off came Yoan Gouffran who, while not having a poor game, struggled to support Remy. When he was taken off in the 57th minute he had managed only 28 touches. Hatem Ben Arfa came on and, while not putting in a defensive shift like Gouffran, looked confident and comfortable in the team. In his 30 minute performance he managed 35 touches (even if 10 of these were in the corner as the clock wound down) won two fouls, completed two dribbles and turned the ball over twice.

Shortly after his introduction a long ball from Krul bounced off the head of Evra to Sissoko and he stormed down the right. With Remy occupying the two central defenders Cabaye ghosted into the 18 yard box and slotted the ball away coolly. It was no more than Newcastle deserved.

Less than 10 minutes later Moyes knew he needed to change the flow of the game. Off came Nani – who flattered to deceive once more with a huge five dribbles but only managing to make one key pass and not a single shot. His end product was not good enough.

In his place was youngster Wilfried Zaha, making his first Premier League appearance He offered more defensively (five tackles in 20 minutes is staggering) than he would have wanted and didn’t manage a shot on target or a key pass.

Shortly afterward Anderson came on for Cleverly but didn’t convince. The Brazilian proved to be stronger in the tackle but he was still dispossessed twice and spent the lion’s share of his time on the pitch helping Evra deal with Ben Arfa.

Moyes’ last throw of the dice was to introduce Antonio Valencia for Rafael. Valencia got forward a lot but possession never found him and he got just 11 touches of the ball.

For Newcastle, Ameobi came on for Cabaye as Newcastle looked to see out the game. Sissoko dropped into midfield ,more so the Magpies could maintain their dominance in the middle of the park.

Lastly, Debuchy felt a slight knock and was replaced by the more defensive minded Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. He only had to make one tackle.


Tiote misses out by a whisker but Debuchy deserves all the plaudits for a truly sensational 83 minutes. Scarcely caught out of position despite going forward so much, this was a performance a la Dani Alves for Barcelona.

The Frenchman has come in for stick but he is now showing consistency in his performances and it was he, and Santon who also played well, who offered Newcastle their width in attack. Manchester United were not allowed to play compact and try and lessen Newcastle’s numerical performance in midfield.


Far from easy, with the whole team working hard, but Newcastle can be a bit smug they went to champions with such swagger and came away with three points. By the end Cabaye and Tiote were almost mocking the United midfield, divulging in a bit of head tennis in front of Anderson.

Next weekend ,the Magpies who have now won five in six, face off against technically proficient Southampton, who have their own impressive full backs and, unlike Manchster  United, actually possess a midfield. It will be a much tougher challenge between two side hoping to be a dark horse for European football.

Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy (Mapou 83), Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Sissoko, Anita, Tiote, Cabaye (Shola 78), Gouffran (Ben Arfa 57), Remy

Unused Subs: Elliot, Jonas, Obertan, Cisse

Ref: Andre Marriner

Crowd: 75,233 (3,000 Away)

You can follow Tom on Twitter @WeeklyNewsBay

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