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Opinion

How Steve Bruce went about beating the worst ever(***) Manchester United team

2 months ago
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De Gea, Dalot, Tuanzebe, Maguire, Young, McTominay, Fred, Pereira, Mata, James, Rashford, Rojo, Chong, Greenwood – In the Premier League era(***) at least, this was by far the worst Manchester United team that Newcastle have faced.

This isn’t to take anything away from the result or the performance of the team, but first things first, the reaction to the win has been spectacularly overblown.

As ever at Newcastle United, the constant negatives are merely mentioned and highlighted, meanwhile the very few positives are magnified by 1,000 and written about til the end of time in the local media.

Again though, let’s not try and take anything away from what was a brilliant win and in truth, a comfortable day for Newcastle.

Bruce set up with five at the back, as opposed to the four which saw us get hammered at Leicester.

Deandre Yedlin was back in the side and his pace/energy down the right-hand side gave United a much needed boost on the counter attack. Despite what some critics may say about him, there is no doubt Yedlin is by far our best right back, and in my opinion, although depressingly true, one of the most influential attacking players in the team.

In front, both Matty and Sean Longstaff pretty much sat on top of the three centre halves for most of the game but the two of them worked well together. Sean no longer looks daunted by playing at the top level and for the most part he now looks like an accomplished Premier League player. If Newcastle are to go down this season, then I am sure there would be many a taker for the elder Longstaff. Similar to Michael Carrick in his style of play, he is a far better player when he has someone with an engine playing alongside of him – Matty provided that engine on Sunday and while Isaac Hayden has looked like a more complete partner for Longstaff – recent performances have seemingly ruled out the chances of S. Longstaff and Jonjo Shelvey ever successfully playing together in the middle of the park for United.

What I liked about us against Man U though, was that when we were in possession we set up in what was a firm 3-4-3, with Willems and Yedlin acting as the two wide men. I continue to stress that you cannot underestimate the importance of having two energetic full-backs/wing-backs who give you an extra option going forward. This allowed Saint-Maximin and Almiron to push further up the pitch. For Almiron in particular, he was far more effective picking up the ball on the half turn closer to the opposition’s goal, compared to previous games where by the time he has turned around and picked up his head, he is yet to cross the halfway line. Likewise, having the two attacking midfielders playing closer to Joelinton meant that his hold up play and constant running was rarely in vain.

There is no bones about it though, that both of these sides are poor.

The reality is that Bruce will continue to fool nobody until Newcastle either move away from the drop zone, or start beating the teams around them. Setting up with every man behind the ball and hoping for a lucky break is probably the easiest way to play football. I know from playing myself in the middle of the park that the game is a whole lot easier when all you have to do is screen what is in front of you with no real pressure to ever get beyond when you have the ball.

If Newcastle are to start beating the teams around them, then more trust has to be placed in those three front men. ASM, Almiron and Joelinton have the makings to be a great attacking trio. Can Bruce get the most out of them though? That will continue to be a major question that will remain unanswered for the next few weeks. However, come the first of December, where Newcastle are in the table I think will likely be where they will end up come May.

A great win of course whatever the quality of that Manchester United team and it does give some hope that this season isn’t the write-off that it appears to be. However, with away games against Chelsea and West Ham coming up, as well as Wolves at home, I think Newcastle will be well in the bottom three before they can start to look up the table again.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

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