Before any trip to Old Trafford, a certain amount of taking stock is required for Newcastle fans.
It’s not impossible to get a result away at Manchester United, nor are they invincible, Newcastle fans saw a draw there last time out and that side went on to get relegated. We managed a draw way back in 2008 in another season where we got relegated. Heck, we even beat them under Alan Pardew in 2013, so on any given day teams can pick up results in the most unlikely of places.
That said, when we took the lead and even threaten to go 2-0 up on Saturday, the inevitable beating was still in the forefront of my mind.
It’s nice to see a Newcastle side not be overawed by the occasion when going up against the big boys, be it Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Anfield etc and we did play some nice stuff in the opening half an hour against Mourinho’s men. Unfortunately, it was always going to be a case of a clean sheet being the most important thing and as it turned out, as soon as Manchester United restored parity, there was only going to be one winner.
Games against these teams are NOT a good gauge of where we are, they provide little more than a reality check for fans and players alike and give a character examination of players. If we do take the lead against them, it’s a case of how long we hold out or do we capitulate, obviously the latter being the case on Saturday. The games that we need to be winning are our bread and butter games, the ones against Bournemouth (lost), Burnley (lost), Brighton (lost), Huddersfield (lost), and Crystal Palace (won).
That will be where we find out if we are good enough to stay in this league, or if we are destined to suffer a second relegation in three years, and third since Mike Ashley bought the club.
There is still time to avert disaster, be that in the form of not sitting back but attacking teams we should/could beat, or in the form of buying players in January to give us a lift in the final four months of the season. The former is down to the manager, the latter is down to whoever holds the purse strings after the new year. If it’s (as I expect) Mike Ashley, then expect nothing. To anyone thinking he will put some money in to protect his Premier League investment then forget it, as he could have done that in the summer and we would be in an infinitely better place right now and his investment would be on far more solid ground.
Instead we have a workmanlike side that has a little quality here and there, but won’t/can’t score sufficient amounts of goals to get enough points, that is once again down to a lack of investment, in particular on a quality centre forward – something we haven’t done since we signed Demba Ba in 2011 or Cisse in 2012. Five years without signing a Premier League quality striker and is it any wonder we’ve struggled?
Kevin Keegan supposedly got a telling off from this club’s hierarchy in 2008 when he said we can’t bridge the gap between where we were at the time and the top four, insisting that the money simply isn’t there. Despite having stated in his press unveiling only a few months earlier that talks with the owner were good on the subject of finance and being backed in the transfer market. Now how many times have we heard that over the last ten years?
Back to there here and now and we have to forget about the Manchester United defeat – like I’ve said our season won’t be scuppered on that result or against similar teams.
Rafa will have to dust the lads down and reset to go again at the weekend but I hope he at least instructs the lads to go for it.
The opening half hour at Old Trafford showed enough to me to suggest that we can have a go at sides and nick a goal or two despite our limited capabilities. This is made all the more likely against sides that aren’t at the top end of the table.
On to Watford this coming Saturday…