Saturday finished Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 2.
An ‘interesting’ match that was definitely one of two halves.
The Editor asked me beforehand to write about 3 positives and 3 negatives from the game, so here goes…
First 45 minutes
We harried, we hassled, we pressed and we scored two good goals (AWAY from home!) – all in a controlled manner that was underpinned by Rafa’s usual game plan of keeping things compact and maintaining control.
Man Utd were woeful but we were positive from the off and caught them cold. We never looked in any danger for the entire first 45. Then along came the second half…
Just nine months on from Dubravka’s arrival on Tyneside, it’s easy to forget just how much of a worry the goalkeeping situation had become for Rafa Benitez, with Elliot and Darlow both error-prone and unconvincing and Mats Sels completely ostracised.
The stats in the ‘goals against’ column don’t tell the full story of the Czech keeper’s influence on the side. A fantastic shot-stopper, Dubravka commands his area well and seems to instill a sense of calm and confidence in what was previously a shaky Newcastle defence.
In an era of inflated prices, with quality goalkeepers at a premium, Dubravka’s value will have already sky-rocketed past the paltry £4m that Newcastle paid to keep him at St James Park in the summer. Here’s hoping we never need to find out his true market value…
Kenedy on the up?
Hopes were high during the summer that Rafa might be permitted to finally break our transfer record to bring Kenedy back to Tyneside full-time after his impressive loan spell last season.
It says much about how poor the Brazilian has been so far this season that fans had recently been expressing their relief that we hadn’t blown big money on signing the erratic winger on a permanent basis.
Now, however, after a solid cameo at left-back at home to Leicester and a positive performance with a great goal at Old Trafford, is the potentially match-winning maverick’s form on the up again? Fingers crossed that his injury isn’t serious and he can pick up where he left off when we take on Brighton in two weeks’ time.
The Second Half
It’s an old football adage that 2-0 is the most dangerous scoreline, while another suggests that it’s possible for a team to ‘score too early’. Unfortunately, both were shown to be true at Old Trafford.
While it’s difficult to be anything other than thrilled with a two goal lead after 10 minutes, it left Newcastle in a curious position with the vast majority of the game left to play.
Yes, Newcastle started well and controlled the first half completely but it’s important to note just how much of a shambles Man Utd were in the opening period. They simply didn’t turn up and were visibly shell-shocked in the aftermath of Muto’s strike.
Unfortunately for us, they were a different animal in the second half and once they pulled a goal back, the momentum swing was palpable. There was only ever going to be one winner from that moment on.
Lack of quality exposed
Even though Man Utd came roaring back from their calamitous start, it was still only poor finishing that cost Newcastle a precious three points. The Magpies should have been out of sight long before Mourinho had a chance to re-group at half-time.
Diame yet again missed a sitter when he found himself unmarked in the box, while Muto and Lascelles were also found wanting when presented with decent opportunities.
Kenedy’s untimely injury further blunted our threat before the Man Utd onslaught intensified – control having slipped from Newcastle’s grasp long since.
That Mourinho had Mata, Fellaini and Sanchez to turn to, while Murphy, Atsu and Joselu were thrown into the fray for Rafa’s men, says it all.
Our limitations are obvious, our shortcomings are becoming exposed with merciless regularity and we have amassed a measly two points from 24 on offer. Indeed, only goal difference keeps us off the bottom of the table as we head into the international break – the reasons to be cheerful are few and far between.
Failure to pick up three points at home to Brighton next time out would see us in deep trouble and under immense pressure with a series of more ‘winnable’ games on the horizon. With only Cardiff and Huddersfield looking as inept as us at this early stage, doubts are creeping in – despite Rafa’s confidence in his ability to keep us up.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 2
Newcastle: Kenedy 7, Muto 10
Man Utd: Mata 70, Martial 76, Sanchez 90
Possession was Man Utd 73% Newcastle 27%
Total shots were Man Utd 18 Newcastle 13
Shots on target were Man Utd 10 Newcastle 8
Corners were Man Utd 10 Newcastle 6
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Manquillo, Ritchie, Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy (Murphy 68), Perez (Joselu 88), Muto (Atsu 78)
Darlow, Clark, Schar, Hayden
Crowd: 74,519 (NUFC Approx 3,000)
(Alan Shearer blames referee for Newcastle not beating Man Utd – Read Here)
(NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s cruel defeat Here)
(Match ratings of all NUFC players for the defeat at Old Trafford Here)