Newcastle United v Manchester United Investigated
Newcastle United vs Manchester United Match Report
Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 4 Saturday 5 April 3pm
Despite Manchester United predicted to rest several players for their Champions League crunch match against Bayern Munich midweek, hopes were not high on Tyneside for Newcastle to arrest the alarming slump that has seen them ship four goals to Southampton and three goals to Everton in recent weeks.
Some truly lacklustre performances since the departure of Yohan Cabaye (they have lost nine out of 14 top flight games since the turn of the year) have led to increased criticism both of manager Alan Pardew and of the club’s stringent transfer policy, which seems aimed at simply maintaining the status quo of Newcastle United being a Premier League mid-table team
Even though the formation had not worked before, Pardew lined up his starting 11 in a 4-2-3-1 come 4-4-1-1 with Luuk De Jong, who has played poorly since his arrival on loan in January, once again forced into a more withdrawn role in an effort to create more chances for Papiss Cisse. Massadio Haidara started at left back for the first time this season and Davide Santon played on the right in place of the injured Mathieu Debuchy.
With Pardew favourite Moussa Sissoko injured, Dan Gosling was also given his first start of the season as Pardew refused to give Hatem Ben Arfa a place in the starting 11 after a lacklustre performance off the bench last week. Instead Vurnon Anita was deployed in the unusual position of right wing, presumably with the hope Santon’s overlaps would provide sufficient width.
Manchester United did rest players and they were also without Wayne Rooney due to a toe injury. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling partnered each other in the centre of defence with makeshift right back Antonio Valencia filling in for Rafael. Darren Fletcher accompanied Marouane Fellaini in midfield with Juan Mata, Shinji Kagawa and Ashley Young supporting Javier Hernandez.
Newcastle started well and looked composed in possession. Neither side looked likely to create much but early chances for both Cisse and Gosling boded well for the rest of the afternoon. Newcastle attempted to get Haidara into the game early on, targeting Valencia (who has been found out defensively frequently when played in defence) but too many of the passes were poor and asked too much of the young Frenchman (Gouffran was particularly guilty).
After Manchester United settled into the game, mostly thanks to Fellaini’s liberal use of his elbows, the red devils had to make a change. Young damaged his finger and was replaced by upstart Adnan Januzaj. Cisse had a couple of chances soon after, including one excellent header from a Santon cross which was expertly tipped over the bar by Lindegaard. Santon, able to cross without having to cut inside, was far more effective – going forward at least – than he has been at left back. He managed three key passes all game, the most of any Newcastle player.
The Magpies, despite their bright start, soon went behind. Gosling had started tenaciously but was unlucky to concede a foul just outside the box in the 38th minute. Mata expertly converted and Manchester United, however undeservedly, went ahead.
Newcastle soon slumped and never really looked like getting back into the game.
No changes at half time by either manager but Newcastle came out looking sorely beaten already. Mata scored his second in the 50th minute and from then on it was damage control for the men in black and white, something they have not been very good at under Pardew. Newcastle were particularly susceptible to giving away free kicks, 16 to the Magpies with just six to the former champions.
Cheick Tiote floundered. After the second goal he was soon booked and lost much of his effectiveness and tenacity at breaking up play. In the end he still made three tackles and achieved 89% pass accuracy but he gave away three fouls, and failed to get either of his shots on target.
At the 60th minute De Jong was replaced by Ben Arfa. The Dutchman played poorly but once again fans may feel Gouffran was given a reprieve simply for his defensive work and not for his attacking skills (Gouffran had two tackles, two interceptions but no shots or key passes).
Ben Arfa tried, getting on the ball 24 times in his half an hour but he was swimming against the tide with Newcastle’s midfield overwhelmed. Fellaini’s physicality was too much for Gosling on numerous occasions and Mata, deployed in the number 10 role, managed to find time and space for himself (although he was dispossessed five times).
Soon after Ben Arfa’s introduction, Kagawa, who drifted in from his wing frequently to overload the midfield, set up Hernandez to finish past Elliot with Newcastle’s defence looking static.
Perhaps as one last insult to the Magpies’ tepid midfield, Moyes could afford to withdraw Fellaini and allow outcast Luis Nani a chance to prove himself. Pardew finally withdrew Gouffran, who had struggled to gain any traction going forward, in the 85th minute for Shola Ameobi. The away team shortly scored again, Mata teeing up Januzaj with a great back heel. Four ahead and another thrashing for the home fans to endure.
A particularly hard game to find a shining light from but at least Cisse was not anonymous, forcing several saves from Lindegaard. Of his seven shots, four were on target and he even made two key passes himself. He won 67% of his aerial battles and even made a tackle.
Manchester United’s man of the match was undoubtedly Mata, who turned in his best performance since arriving at the Red Devils in January, but Anders Lindegaard was forced into several smart saves as Newcastle created numerous half chances but nothing clinical.
Anita has nor the pace or the guile to play as a winger and Pardew’s gamble backfired badly with Anita smart with the ball played in front of him, but weak at tracking back (compare his one tackle to four interceptions). Going forward the Dutchman failed with his one take on and failed with his one cross.
The barren run without Loic Remy continues (Newcastle have only scored once all season when the on-loan striker is not on the pitch) as does De Jong’s – with few being convinced despite his work rate and a clear lack of comfort with the position Pardew seems insistent on playing him in.
A poor result against Stoke and the knives will be out for Pardew – having failed to arrest an alarming slump which has seen his players seemingly go on holiday since the January transfer window.
Newcastle: Elliot, Santon, Coloccini, Williamson, Haidara, Gosling, Tiote, Anita, Gouffran (Shola 85), De Jong (Ben Arfa 61), Cisse
Unused Subs: Alnwick, Steven Taylor, Mapou, Dummett, Armstrong
Ref: Kevin Friend
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