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Opinion

Shoots of real hope spring up for Newcastle United after Man Utd defeat

1 year ago
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Apologies for turning your attention away from the Newcastle United takeover debate for a brief interlude.

There is football still to be played and maybe what happens on the pitch is even more important now, seeing as there is seemingly real interest in buying the club.

Saturday of course saw a harsh lesson for Rafa Benitez’ team at Old Trafford.

Playing well for 30/35 minutes, three goals in only 17 minutes saw dreams become a relative nightmare.

Predictably, the media were only interested in the Paul Pogba love-in, as the Frenchman’s return to the Man Utd side helped them recover from that early Dwight Gayle goal.

As for Newcastle supporters, it was a mixed range of views afterward about the match and the individuals in black and white.

I appear to be in a bit of a minority because whilst I was gutted that things had gone pear-shaped in the game, I was still very buoyant about certain aspects of the match and certain players.

I thought Rafa’s team played some football in that opening half at Old Trafford which was on another level to what we have largely seen this season.

Some of the passing moves were excellent and I can’t understand how anybody can think Rafa picked the wrong tactics and should have had everybody gathered on the edge of our 18 yard box, hoping to defend for the entire 90 minutes without conceding.

There was nothing wrong  with the tactics, just at times the execution of them.

Some of the Newcastle players simply aren’t good enough, this shown most vividly at Old Trafford when getting caught in possession and/or gifting the ball to Man Utd with misplaced passes. This was at the heart of what went wrong in terms of losing the match, the hosts generally were unsurprisingly of far better quality and ability when it came to retaining possession.

However, even in this area of the match, there was still some big positivity to take out of it for Newcastle.

Jonjo Shelvey was excellent. His short and long-range passing was very very good, crisp passes finding their target pretty much every time. The last 35 minutes was a write off after it became 3-1 but prior to that, Shelvey was as good as anybody in midfield on either side for me.

The other big success story was Dwight Gayle.

I thought he did well against Bournemouth and of course scored a goal that was wrongly disallowed for offside. At Old Trafford he stepped up yet another gear and really looked like a Premier League striker.

His movement was superb and now fully fit, he really harassed the Man Utd defenders and caused problems throughout the opening 45 minutes. He took up great positions and the goal on 14 minutes was excellent. Dwight Gayle going right out to the right touchline and combining really well with DeAndre Yedlin to send him clear down the left, Gayle sprinting towards the box and at the same time keeping an eye on Yedlin’s progress before anticipating where the defender was going to deliver the ball.

The cutback was expertly met by Dwight Gayle and his shot gave David de Gea no chance.

A very very good Premier League quality goal that neither Mitrovic or Joselu would have the faintest hope of scoring.

Mikel Merino is undoubtedly looking to have at least the same level of control and ability as both Shelvey and Gayle, giving Newcastle a trio of very good players in that front six.

When you add the usually reliable Matt Ritchie, who had a bad day at the office on Saturday, that gives you a quartet of players to operate in the opposing half.

If you can put Shelvey, Merino, Gayle and Ritchie all on the pitch together, fully fit, then add another two players of the same quality or better in January or next summer, then Newcastle could be really cooking with that front six.

If you add in a decent centre-back partnership from the options we have, plus DeAndre Yedlin potentially finding consistency to go with his pace and decent play at times, up and down. then Newcastle aren’t too far short of having a team that now only tries – but that can also compete in the top half of the table.

For sure there is work to do and challenges to face before we can arrive at that point BUT there are green shoots already in place that  could give Newcastle United a very decent side in the not so distant future.
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