No surprise to see Aleksandar Mitrovic making the headlines on Sunday.
A (proper) football free weekend and the Newcastle striker scores a late important equaliser for his country, rescuing a point for Serbia against qualification rivals Wales.
The one thing I missed when reading stuff today, and I know many of you won’t like this, is that he was hopeless for the previous 85 minutes.
Slower than me (on a bad day), Mitrovic had huffed and puffed around the top end of the pitch, playing almost zero part in anything Serbia were trying to do. Failing to make space to receive the ball, it was a very easy night for Wales’ makeshift defence until that late late header, maybe complacency was their biggest enemy after such a comfortable match.
Obviously I understand the headline writers wanting to focus on the one moment he was involved in the match BUT surely it is less than honest not to at least mention how poor he was the rest of the time.
When he does something good for Newcastle I’m the same as everybody else, I love the enthusiasm and happiness that oozes from every pore in the generous Mitrovic physique. However, it is a bit like looking forward to the old LuaLua somersaults back in the day when he scored, great when it happens but just not often enough.
I’m not saying he hasn’t played a part in the last few matches for Newcastle.
In the League Cup against Preston he played well – but then pretty much everybody did, even Mohamed Diame…as Preston’s makeshift reserve team looked shocking.
Away at Preston in the Championship match Mitrovic took his two goals well (which isn’t the norm) but did next to nothing in the game otherwise, United spending the vast majority of the time defending and the former Anderlecht striker giving next to no outlet to relieve that pressure.
The 2-1 against Cardiff, he did really well for that opening goal in assisting Christian Atsu but his overall play against a rubbish Cardiff defence was worse than average, I honestly can’t say that he was any better in his general play than those lumps, Lambert and then Chamakh, that the visitors had up front. With United narrowly seeing the game out 2-1, everybody forgets that Mitrovic put an absolute sitter wide when he could have killed off the game.
I think the Serbian forward definitely has a part to play this season, as part of the cover for Dwight Gayle who surely will be restored to the starting line-up against Leeds with Mitrovic dropping to the bench.
Looking ahead though to next season, never in a million years will Rafa Benitez see Mitrovic as an option to play up front if United are back in the Premier League.
He came with great expectations, which a near £15m price tag was always going to provide, but United will need much more than what Mitrovic can give IF they are to make a real go of building on this season next year in the Premier League.
As a striker without any pace at all, you have to be otherwise exceptional to stand any chance of making it in the English top tier.
No matter how much we might want our Number 45 to be the long-term answer, he hasn’t got what it takes.