Well, I wasn’t expecting that (Man U 3 United 2).
It was a Newcastle dominated week in regards to the events of Wednesday in Ponteland, and then a Kevin Keegan event on Thursday for me in London. You could be forgiven for forgetting that Newcastle had a massive game at the weekend.
For the moment, the pressure on the team is immense, having not managed to win a game so far the pressure will keep ramping up until they do. That is just the nature of the game.
I thought I was going to see us win at Old Trafford for the second time ever but it wasn’t to be. At half-time I would have taken a point, which probably shows you where we are as a fan base right now.
If you had to introduce someone who knew nothing about Newcastle United to the club, and you could only show them one game to explain what it is like supporting this great club, then this one would be high on your list I am sure.
Unless Newcastle score in the opening ten minutes of a cup final, then I think that is probably as good an opening ten minutes to a football match as you could ever experience, 2-0 up at Old Trafford. It tastes even better when you are expecting absolutely nothing from the game.
There is that old saying that you could score too early in a football game. While there definitely isn’t such a thing that you can score two goals too early. Then of course there is that other saying that a two goal lead is the most dangerous one to have. I mean, what sort of saying is that? Ludicrous. It was the perfect start.
One of the big positives for me though is that after his early goal, which he took brilliantly, Kenedy looked like he had gotten his mojo back. I hope he can put in a similar shift in his next game. He may have came off after an hour, having run himself into the ground, but that is good enough for me. If he can give you something like that every week, but after 60 minutes he comes off because he can barely run, then I would take that.
A few minutes later when Muto put us 2-0 up it was absolute delirium in the away end. I have stood in a lot of away ends and I’ve gone potty a lot of times. In fact, my earliest memory of a crazy away end was probably when Olivier Bernard put us 1-0 up at Old Trafford around 15 years ago. I was just a little boy, standing on the chair next to my dad and every time I go to Old Trafford it brings back that wonderful memory.
Both Muto and Perez put in great displays. In the first half, Man United didn’t know how to handle Muto as Shelvey frequently zipped the ball into his feet as he played between the lines to turn and put us on the front foot. Likewise, Perez, who I criticise an awful lot, put in one of his best performances in a Newcastle shirt.
Shelvey, who was the best player on the pitch by a good distance, then had a spectacular effort from long range, Muto missed what can only be described as an absolute sitter, and Newcastle should have had a penalty (I’ll come to the referee later). In truth, Newcastle should have been three or four up at half-time, and that is being conservative.
You knew in that second half that as soon as Man U scored that would be it. It was just a matter of making sure that first goal didn’t come. Man U missed a few sitters in the opening ten minutes of the first half, and Dubravka pulled off a good few saves, but in between 55 and 70 minutes we honestly looked fairly comfortable. Man U were of course putting the pressure on but it certainly didn’t feel like it was inevitable.
As soon as Mata’s goal hit the net that was that. Not only did the players look beaten but we were beaten in the stands too. Perhaps in a different era the fans would have got more behind the team but you felt the inevitable was on its way. That’s not to say they didn’t still sing and chant but that first goal hurt just as much as the second and third.
Martial‘s goal was well worked, and although now I have watched it back Dubravka arguably looked suspect being beaten at his near post, you certainly can’t criticise the guy as his overall contribution saved us more than once.
The Sanchez goal, well I didn’t see much of it being at the other end of the ground but it was just so inevitable, with Man U overloading on the Newcastle defence on the back post. It was a sickener of course, but it was coming, and so when the ball hit the back of the net, it wasn’t as hard a pill to swallow than some other goals I can think of (I will always go back to that 3-2 Norwich game a couple of years back).
I don’t think there is any grand analysis needed as to why Newcastle lost the game in the second half. After an hour the Newcastle players were dead on their feet, especially Kenedy, Perez and Ritchie who had done most of the running defensively and going forward. Manchester United brought on Juan Mata, Alexis Sanchez and Fellaini off the bench. Newcastle brought on Atsu, Joselu and Murphy. You might say no professional side should be giving away three goals in the last twenty minutes of any game at this level, but when the discrepancies between the two sides are so huge, really, what do you expect?
I don’t think it was a case of bad tactics, or lack of experience. The players out there just looked dead on their feet. Rafa was probably forced into making subs because of that. I am sure that if he had his way he would have preferred to keep everyone out there, even if they were knackered, just to keep their shape and grind out at least a draw.
I saw a few fans afterwards on social media complaining about the negative tactics, especially in the second half. But really, what did you expect? I would also like to add as well that Newcastle still had attacking intent in the second half. They defended like dogs, but when they could get themselves up the field, they still looked for that third goal. Ritchie had a half chance at the start of the second half, Kenedy had a great chance around the hour mark on the counter attack, Diame nearly scored with a header and there were more than a few NUFC corners in the second half too.
I have sat at a lot of games, especially under Rafa, and thought ‘c’mon we are too deep here etc’ but Saturday was not one of them. I was thoroughly happy with the performance over the whole 90 minutes.
I very rarely comment on the referee. I can’t remember a time when I have done a match report and blamed a result on the referee. I am not going to do that this time either but serious questions have to be asked of Anthony Taylor. First of all, the decision for him to referee the game in the first place borders on ridiculous. Taylor was born six miles from Old Trafford. To put that into context, it is the equivalent of someone from Blaydon or Wallsend refereeing at St James and claiming that they support Blyth Spartans. Even if Taylor has no attachment to Man U in anyway whatsoever, common sense dictates that he shouldn’t be refereeing Man U games.
Of course a lot of attention was placed on his decision not to give us a penalty. When do you ever get those at Old Trafford? As a qualified referee myself, even though you can forgive him for not giving the penalty, despite the fact you could see the handball from the other side of the stadium, his decision to not even give a corner is beyond belief. What was the linesman doing? What was the 4th official doing? If they can’t see that, if they cant say in Taylor’s ear “it hit the Man U players hand, definitely a corner, up to you if it was a penalty” then what is the point in them being there? I’m not a fan of VAR, I honestly don’t think we need it. What is needed in English football is basic common sense. Sadly, it went out of the window a long time ago.
The decision that really got me the most was the fact that Paul Pogba was still left on the pitch to play a key role in Man U’s comeback. In the first half Pogba made a foul and booted the ball away to the other end of the pitch. A basic, mandatory yellow card. One of the easiest yellow cards you will give as a referee at that level. Yet Taylor decided not to book him. Again, that is fair enough, maybe he just wanted to keep his cards in his pocket. Yet in the second half, Matt Richie was given a yellow card for taking a quick free-kick (apparently on purpose). Where is the consistency? It is those decisions which really grind on me.
Pogba would go on to chop down Deandre Yedlin while he raced towards the Man U goal. Those ones in which you ‘take one for the team’ are normally a basic yellow card. However, he shouldn’t have been able to make that foul in the first place, and on closer inspection, it was a straight red, with Pogba raking his boots down the Achilles of Yedlin. A potential career ending injury.
The result may have been the same, you never know, but don’t ever let a Man U fan tell you that decisions go against them.
A sold out away end and one of the best away ends for a long time. Of course that had something to do with being 2-0 up at Old Trafford for most of the game. You can never knock the effort that goes into selling out any 5.30 fixture. For us, it involved paying a taxi driver double to hang around and wait for us near Old Trafford after the game so he could zip us back to catch the last train back to Euston.
The other fans
Another thing I never do is comment on the other team’s fans but I feel compelled to do so after Saturday. Man U I have never really minded compared to other teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Liverpool because their fans have generally turned up and Old Trafford in the 15 years I have been going there has been the best atmosphere out of the bigger sides.
However, I thought their fans were embarrassing on Saturday. Perhaps they have just got fed up with not winning anymore? They didn’t sing a song until the game back to 2-1, no effort to get behind their team. All that success, all those glory days and it seems they have taken it all for granted. You could write a whole article (which I am obviously not going to do) on everything that is wrong with Man U at the moment, and you could dedicate a decent section of that to their support.
I guess though the be all and end all at the moment is that Newcastle came away with no points, and we are still without a win.
Don’t lose sight of why we are here, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. There is only one man to blame for this mess and that is Mike Ashley. 100% Mike Ashley. Don’t lose sight of that.
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)
(Positives and Negatives from the match Here)
(A tale of two benches – Read Here)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn