Horrible Histrionics – Manchester City 2 Newcastle 0
I will admit to being alerted at the first whistle to the lack of intensity which United were going to show for the next hour and a half.
Isaac Hayden was shown chewing gum as the game kicked off, I’m no expert on professional sport but I can’t see how a mouth full of chitty is going to be anything other than a major hinderance to elite performance.
Still, I knew in my heart of hearts that if my complaints never got further than that then it was going to be a good night in Toon.
City, missing birthday boy Jesus and playing with a false number nine, took a bit of time to settle and looked more sluggish than previous seasons. Indeed, as if to prove that point, it took them fourteen minutes to score.
Newcastle’s narrow midfield four enabled the two wing backs to provide the width – Yedlin, who used to be able to defend but can’t cross, and Ritchie who can cross but left a huge Sterling shaped hole behind him for the full hour he was on.
Sterling received the ball in the area, dithered and wriggled before setting up Gundogan for an eight-yard tap in despite our entire team being on the goal line. It was a move which Man City continually repeated and Newcastle did nothing about. Maybe Man City were full of Christmas spirit but they never really looked like putting United to the sword.
A 19th minute cross-shot from De Bruyne had Darlow scampering to tip wide, a 23rd minute City break saw NUFC wide open as Torres shot and Darlow saved. Likewise, with the entire black and white defence not goal side, KDB shot and Darlow saved again. Still, it wasn’t all City. At one point Newcastle had a corner.
‘I have in my hand a game plan’
The referee blew to end a tepid first half. The Citizens had played well below their usual level against us but were ahead, Newcastle had completed the first 45 minutes of the plan to fulfil the fixture.
It was easy to follow Steve Bruce’s game-plan. United had changed back to the 5-5-0 formation which had been so successful in previously getting one point from the four games it has been played in and at the City of Manchester Stadium were on course to retain that 0 point average.
JoeLinton as a false number 9 was admirably fulfilling the role he had played many times before, Almiron gave the ball away every time he got it, Murphy was better, he never gave it away because he never got it. The moment of the half in black and white came on the half hour when Yedlin scampered down the wing to cross the ball straight out for a goal-kick. No one was more annoyed than the overlapping Schar. When your centre-half is overlapping your full-back and your winger is infield protecting against the counter-attack, then you know you are in the presence of something special. Pep couldn’t wait to get his team in for half-time.
The second half began with Manchester City being taken on single-handedly by Jacob Murphy. Three minutes in and his boot came off, which at that point in the game meant that United had achieved one more boot coming off than shots but Murphy soon changed that. He forced a save out of Ederson five minutes in, put a curling effort over the bar ten minutes later and Ederson saved again with thirteen minutes to go.
Not that it mattered by then, Torres had made it 2-0 much earlier and the game was over as soon as the ball went in. As soon as the ball went in the first time to make it 1-0, the second goal was needless elaboration. The excellent Cancelo robbed the not so excellent Almiron and put the ball across goal. Fernandez, still able to say he is one of United’s most consistent players because he now makes at least one horrible mistake every game, intercepted a cross which did not need intercepting and rather than clearing with a thump, flicked the ball back for Torres to score.
It started raining which gave the commentators something to talk about now that the game was over. Storm Bella it was called. It gathered intensity as the game went on, in direct contrast to United who had the opportunity to go back to eleven onfield players when JL went off but turned down the opportunity, bringing on Andy Carroll, whose only contribution was to plant his elbow on John Stones’s jaw and get away with it.
The commentators said that JoeLinton was clearly struggling. They didn’t add, since August last year. The only effort he showed was when he sprinted off the pitch. Lewis also came on for Ritchie and Gayle came on for Almiron. It didn’t make any difference.
The commentators gave us their take on Covid-19, the weather and reminded us how happy we should be that Newcastle were eight points off the bottom three. I didn’t understand the relevance of that constant blether until after the game when I realised that Steve Bruce had left the dugout and was now doing the commentary.
Not to be left out, Steve McManaman told us that “Newcastle need more craft.” Krafth? Another hopeless right-back was the last thing we needed on the pitch. Meanwhile, Aguero came on, Darlow made a great save from him, Silva hit the post and Stones missed a sitter. All of which meant that United had achieved some sort of level of performance which warranted praise, avoiding a Christmas stuffing presumably.
‘Off with their heads’
It was after the game which the headlines came. Rightly so, the game itself isn’t worth mentioning. Steve Bruce’s mouth once again ran away with itself as he claimed that Newcastle fans, and we are led to believe he is one, are self-entitled, deluded, critical monsters:
“We had a bad week and some of the mass hysteria in my opinion was unjust, unfair, and a lot of it was not right in my opinion…My remit is to make sure Newcastle remain a Premier League outfit, and that’s what I’ll try to achieve. That’s where we’ve been for the last two or three years.”
It is difficult to know what he was hoping to achieve with that sentence, a job on Talksport perhaps. He is certainly making it difficult for anyone who supports Newcastle to support him.
His gripe might carry more weight if the team had put in any sort of a performance. It wasn’t appalling like the one against Brentford was, it was just lacking any sort of everything. There is very little point in watching Newcastle United in games like this, they are just wasting my time. If anything, Bruce’s statement was an admission of that.
NUFC have twenty six games a season and twelve exercises in anonymity where the plan is to not make any headlines by getting absolutely battered. This was one of those twelve. I support Newcastle United and I love to watch them. After what Bruce said, at least I know now that when the team lines up like this I can save myself the bother.
‘We’ll surrender on the beaches’
The biggest disappointment was that City weren’t as good as they have been. The Sky Blues never really got out of second gear, their team somewhere between not firing on all cylinders and not having too. It is the first time I have seen them this season and again they looked like a more solid team than before but with less creativity. They certainly miss incisive players like David Silva, Guardiola has never managed to repeat the quick pass and move of his previous teams in Manchester and now he seem to be left with a more functional outfit.
Rodri, excellent at Atletico has never settled in a team with more possession, Gundogan and Bernardo Silva don’t move like Xavi and Iniesta did, they need more touches and De Bruyne and Sterling seem to be not quite as good as they were. Perhaps they are missing a target man and Aguero’s return in this game might give them a focus previously missed. City have definitely missed him and have found that Jesus is not the answer after all.
As for NUFC, just nothing. Too many invisible, too many simply occupying a shirt. I used to give pelters to a player we used to have called Emre because he only played well against good teams. He wanted to show them how good he was, presumably because he wanted to play for them, and he was awful against the poorer teams. What would I give for a player like that now? Do none of our players want to show Manchester City how good they are?
After the game, as managers do, Pep tried to big up his players even though he will know that much greater tests lie ahead:
“It was important the way we played. It was the best performance of the season in terms of our football has to be played in one rhythm – it can’t be up and down all the time.”
Steve Bruce did much the same:
“It was a decent performance. The game in midweek has gone, we needed to respond to the criticism, and they have done as much as they could. They rolled their sleeves up and had a go.”
Neither manager told the truth of course but Steve was all out of honesty by now.
We all know where we stand now. Premier League survival is the goal – Merry Christmas from Newcastle United.
So stop the histrionics, it’s unfair, support your team, this is as good as it is going to get. No presents, no miracles, no wise men bearing gifts, not even a cracker. All we got was the joke.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Manchester City 2 Newcastle 0 – Saturday 26 December 2020 8pm
Gundogan 14, Torres 55
Possession was Man City 76% Newcastle 24%
Total shots were Man City 11 Newcastle 7
Shots on target were Man City 6 Newcastle 2
Corners were Man City 7 Newcastle 3
Referee: Andre Marriner
Darlow, Yedlin, Fernandez, Schar, Clark, Ritchie (Lewis 66), M Longstaff, Hayden, Murphy, Almiron (Gayle 82), Joelinton (Carroll 71)
Gillespie, Wilson, Krafth, Manquillo, Elliot Anderson, Sean Longstaff
(Pep Guardiola has had his say about beating Newcastle United – Steve Bruce loving it… – Read HERE)
(Alan Shearer puts Steve Bruce right after Head Coach accuses Newcastle fans of ‘Histrionics’ – Read HERE)
(BBC Sport comments from neutrals about Steve Bruce and Newcastle after Man City – Says it all – Read HERE)
(Manchester City 2 Newcastle 0 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(Steve Bruce confirms Mike Ashley Newcastle United plan – Read HERE)
(Manchester City star after stroll v Newcastle “Did it quite well and could have scored more” – Read HERE)
(Manchester City 2 Newcastle 0 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday night defeat – Read HERE)
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