The defeat at Old Trafford was tough to take, especially the fact that the final three goal winning margin suggested it was a bit of a walkover.
The reality of course being that Newcastle actually gave them a good game for 45 minutes, only for that added time Smalling goal to take all wind out of Newcastle’s sails.
The second half was always going to be a non-event from that point on, though at least Rafa sent his players out to try and get the pivotal fourth goal, rather than sit back to try and settle for a 2-1 defeat.
Looking back at the game now with a bit of perspective, I thought there were five interesting points to be taken from the game.
I thought he was excellent.
Much was made of his non-inclusion in the England squad and at Old Trafford he showed that he can mix it with the best. Always confident and comfortable on the ball, Shelvey’s passing was excellent. He also looks really fit these days and if getting the necessary help from those around him, I think he can lead Newcastle to some better results ahead.
On the subject of help for Jonjo Shelvey, he didn’t get a great deal from Isaac Hayden on Saturday. Hayden did very well last season and it was hoped he could smoothly step up to the Premier League. However, he has really struggled. At the age of 22 he has time on his side so nobody should write him off yet but Isaac Hayden isn’t up to it at he minute. Increasingly this season he has been guilty of losing the ball in dangerous areas and once again on Saturday he picked up a booking (now out of Watford game with five bookings) as he tried to retrieve the situation. His effort to prevent Pogba crossing for the equaliser was especially poor, needs a rest from the first team I think.
Which brings us to Mikel Merino.I haven’t spoken to a Newcastle fan who hasn’t been impressed by the Spaniard and all 14 of Newcastle’s points have came with involvement from him. I believe Jonjo Shelvey would have looked even better with Merino alongside him and Newcastle could have had a far better hold on the game with better ball retention throughout. Along with Shelvey, the summer signing is surely key to what happens this season. Rafa will be praying that Mikel Merino gets through training this week without any reaction to the back problem he is recovering from.
Centre of defence
Overall, I think Clark and Lejeune battled away well. The Frenchman was at fault for the second and fourth goals but he is learning on the job having previously only spent one full season in a top league (La Liga last season).
I like both of them but I have to admit that despite not rating him that highly previously, I think on this season’s form we did really miss Jamaal Lascelles on Saturday.
His contribution and captaincy could have maybe prevented that two goal blast before half-time.
I have to say, the backing from the Newcastle supporters was unbelievable. Staying behind after the final whistle to sing their heads off after a 4-1 defeat, quite mad. I definitely think a lot of our enemies hate the fact that fans have total belief in Rafa Benitez and would love us to turn on him.
He isn’t without his faults of course, just like any manager, but the Newcastle fans know just how much he is contributing in trying to prevent our club becoming a total shambles under Ashley.