Sharp reminder of just how bloody good he can be…
Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0 Saturday 22 August 12.45pm
Always best to get this one out of the way I think, and given the hilarious procession of players that have knocked Man Utd back this summer, it was well worth getting it in before they did manage to snare a decent signing.
It seemed ominous though, after our tame surrender at Swansea, to be facing a Manchester side that had a 100% record despite not fully hitting their stride.
It proved to be difficult going early on with Rooney putting the ball in the net after only four minutes, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag. Van Gaal later insisted that this should have counted, as although Rooney was actually offside he was only just off and because they’re Man Utd this should be acceptable.
This also ignores the fact that it was one of those where the offside is flagged early and everyone involved realises this before the striker pointlessly sticks the ball in, so in reality Krul could even have smothered it had play been live.
There was no denying Man U dominated the early going, although their efforts on goal were all tame, speculative efforts that Krul gathered easily.
With a fear of the inevitable spreading, Newcastle began to find their way back into the game. Mitrovic was a handful making his first start for the club, although he kept the physicality on the right side of the assault line. His powerful header could have sent us into half time ahead, but struck the bar with keeper well beaten.
With Manchester looking more pedestrian and lacking in invention as the game went on, Newcastle seemed more organised and assured with an excellent “away” performance all round.
Mbemba, Taylor and Anita all had terrific games both in holding the fort and introducing counter attacks, but the man of the match is surely a foregone conclusion as an incredible renaissance took place at the heart of the United defence.
After the speculation, the dwindling confidence and the poor season gone, Fabricio Coloccini was still a potential departure in many people’s minds, and it was as welcome as it was surprising that we were all given a sharp reminder today of exactly how bloody good this guy can be, and has been for us.
Our captain was everywhere; winning headers, timing tackles, nipping the ball off people’s toes and playing neatly out of defence. When the players left the field to the sound of the “curly hair too” song ringing round Old Trafford, it was definitely not the first airing of this ditty on the day.
It may be as simple as Steven Taylor, whose aerial competence was a huge asset, being Colo’s preferred partner at the back, or it could be the galvanising effect of McLaren’s vote of confidence in his skipper that prompted this superb showing.
Either way, if Coloccini can maintain this level of performance throughout the season, it will be a massive boost to our prospects and credit to the coaching team. Incidentally, I am aware this is only one performance and should be treated as such for now, before the keyboard warriors feel the need to attack the comments section.
It was still backs to the wall stuff as nerves began to fray in the away end. Every substitution Manchester made, gave an added edge of tension…
Carrick for the surprisingly muted Schweinsteiger (“they’re gonna boss the midfield now!”)
Januzaj off for Hernandez (“well he’s definitely gonna score”)
Valencia for the right back (“they’re proper going for it!”)
…and still Newcastle stood firm.
For our part, there was a debut from the bench for Florian Thauvin, who made an immediate impression in roasting Shaw, but at times his attacking flair was costly to possession in the preservation exercise.
Krul was another one recapturing past glories, as he saved sharply from Hernandez when all looked lost and the clock ticked on towards a hard won point. With this opposition though, you’ll always fear the late stages of the game, and today’s had a couple of twists.
We had dealt well with set-pieces but Man U’s injury time corner still set off palpitations.
When Smalling’s header crashed off the post it very nearly caused an episode, but a counter was swiftly launched and suddenly Wijnaldum was storming away with a 3 v 2.
He played in Cisse to his right and as he shaped to shoot the world stood still as we teetered on the brink of an unbelievably magnificent moment. The shot/cross that followed moved in slow motion as Thauvin lunged at it in front of the gaping net, agonisingly close to probably the greatest ever debut goal Newcastle has ever had. It would have been an absolute mugging, but I very doubt we’d have cared.
So, a point was probably a fair result on a scorching afternoon.
On that note I’d like to thank Manchester City Council for taking the approach of cordoning off and smashing up several of the tram stations, meaning we went with the idea of walking back to the pub to avoid the day-tripper riddled congestion.
It was a bit hot like. Hopefully, following this kick-start, our season will be too.
These are the key stats as provided by BBC Sport;
Possession was 30% Newcastle and 70% Man Utd
Total shots was 7 for Newcastle and Man Utd 20
Shots on target was Newcastle 0 and Man Utd 8
While corners was Newcastle 5 and Man Utd 11
Player ratings totals below from fans so far, add yours and then press submit.
Team: Krul, Mbemba, Coloccini, Taylor, Haidara, Colback, Anita, Wijnaldum, Obertan (Thauvin 69), Perez (Tiote 78), Mitrovic (Cisse 88)
Unused Subs: Darlow, Williamson, Aarons, de Jong,
Ref: Craig Pawson
You can follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
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