Before the Newcastle United weekend trip to Old Trafford, the league games had fallen into two clear groups, the ones where our only ambition was to avoid a thumping against the top teams and the ones where our only ambition was to avoid losing to the bottom ones.
It was a pleasant surprise then that we went for Manyoo rather than sitting back and watching them play. It almost worked a treat, might well have worked completely if we had been given the penalty we should have got, if we had taken our chances, if we hadn’t run out of steam, if we had any substitutes who could have strengthened our position, if they didn’t have a couple of hundred million pounds worth of talent to throw on when things weren’t going well for them.
People have spoken about the referee changing the game by missing the handball, but I have to admit that I was at Old Trafford and I didn’t see the handball either, it was up the other end of the ground to where I was standing. Then again, the referee hadn’t had a few pints before the game (I presume) and he was getting paid to at least watch what was going on.
He’d certainly had a much shorter drive to get there than we did, he probably could have seen the handball from his house never mind from the pitch. As another commenter on this website mentioned, the only criticism I had of him during the game was that he didn’t book Pogba for kicking the ball away which would have ultimately led either to Pogba being sent off for tripping Yedlin, or Yedlin scampering towards the penalty area in a favourable attacking position.
Would either of those two things affected the result? Well, you would hope so.
Paul Pogba: ‘I’ll tell you when you can look ref’
I thought the team played well. Dubravka made some fine saves and is a quality shot-stopper, even if he is a little unsure of his defence as the crosses come in, Manyoo’s third goal shows why that probably is. The defence did their best, even Manquillo, who was at least as good as their full backs. The midfield competed until running out of steam, which is getting earlier and earlier each game for Diame, who looks knackered by half time now. Kenedy seems to be slowly overcoming the problems he was having in the early part of the season, some of them in his head, some of them in his feet.
Muto and Perez up front gave us more pace, enthusiasm and an ability to run in behind the defence, which is always lacking with Joselu. Muto played really well, much better than his previous outings had suggested he could. Perez had, until Saturday, looked a long way short of the player that was last season’s top scorer but even last season he played in spurts, when he was good he was good, when he was bad he was just someone falling over in front of the defence. While Saturday is a long way short of a spurt, it could be the start of a spurt. It’ll have to be a major spurt if he wants to be a player who plays for Spain or Barcelona as he said in the summer. At the moment he can concentrate on being a player who plays for Newcastle United. Saturday was a start.
It would all have been better had we won but we lost because of a few old failings and a few obvious flaws. We didn’t get the breaks, we didn’t take our chances, we don’t have anyone outside of the first eleven who can make a difference and a lot of teams are better than us because they have been invested in. At least we played much better, a bit of imagination from the manager, a bit of confidence from the players and above all, no white socks.
‘Ayoze Perez: The Spurting Spaniard’
Away from the Mancunian grass, the club have been the suckling pig at the media feeding frenzy again this week, after Kevin Keegan wrote another book and Mike Ashley took the players out for a Happy Hour cheapo to try and make up for always withholding agreed bonuses until they beg him for them. Whether his actions in both putting his hand in his pocket and his fingers up to the fans will have any effect, well at least he can’t take the credit for us beating Manchester United.
In general, the football media suck up to football clubs in a way which doesn’t really happen in other sports, so the story at our club never really gets a proper telling. It would make a great pantomime if it did.
When you see the soul-searching questions asked of tennis players, golfers and formula one drivers, then you wonder why football managers are allowed to make stuff up and not be challenged. When you see the media effectively stop the Australian Cricket team from behaving like a couple of Russian Sports Nutritionists on a Salisbury holiday and get their captain, vice-captain and opening batsman banned for a year, you wonder why the football media don’t do their jobs properly. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel half the time. They could just ask Mike Ashley why he stuck his fingers up at the Newcastle fans outside of that Ponteland restaurant. Instead, we have to put up with the likes of Jamie Redknapp saying things like Newcastle should not have sold Mitrovic for £23million:
“Newcastle will be looking at Aleksandar Mitrovic now and thinking ‘maybe we should have persevered with him’…What a talent he is! He has got so much ability. At £23million, Mitrovic is an absolute bargain.”
Nobody in the media debated this with Redknapp. Newcastle aren’t idiots for selling Mitrovic for £23million. They sold a player the manager didn’t want (rightly or wrongly) and who acknowledged that he was unable to play in the style the manager required and they sold him for a fair price. Just because that player does well somewhere else is not the point. They are mugs because they didn’t spend the money on a replacement. If you sell your car, you generally buy a better one. At the very least you buy another one, you don’t sell your car and then complain that you have to walk everywhere and wonder how it happened. Not such a big headline there though. Easier to say NUFC are mugs than say they are being systematically asset-stripped.
The media generally love to talk about Newcastle because they know that the North East and NUFC fans all over will listen in. Just as Mike Ashley is finding with Sports Direct at the moment, if the supporters stopped listening/buying or actively campaigned against them then they would have to change their tune or suffer the consequences. If Newcastle are so boring or are “mugs” or are “not a big club”, stop showing their matches and talking about them. Ah you can’t, you make too much money out of them.
‘Money to be made: Newcastle United mugs’
Speaking of making money out of Newcastle United, the new owner of the House of Fry-Up turned up at our third match running with an appearance at Old Trafford. Why? Who knows, PR probably, trying to show everyone he is one of the good guys. The media lap it up (see above), so does middle England and the listeners of Rant Sport, the same people who believe that Newcastle is a row of pie shops surrounded by overweight chimney sweeps, or believed a bus advert saying that booting a few unemployed Romanians out of the country would mean we would all have our own hospital.
The media won’t say it but really all Ashley gives us is a finger of fudge. Just enough for us to eat until it’s time to eat. Well, twelve years on we are still waiting for something to eat and now we all know that the cupboard is bare, that the club is going to starve. All “every penny” means to Ashley is two fingers of fudge.