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Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1 match report – Still no sign of Steve Bruce being sacked

7 months ago
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Heading into a pair of horrible games away to Chelsea and Man Utd, I was determined not to panic.

Here are a pair of clubs with far superior funding and personnel, against whom we have registered a solitary away win apiece in Premier League history.

Even when equipped with a swashbuckling squad and a competent manager we would get nil returns from these trips so best not to let things get out of hand when we ended up stuck on 25 points after these matches.

Then Fulham woke up, amassing a highly improbable seven points from three games in the same period it took us just to lose to Chelsea. Now going into this one we sat a petrifying three points from the drop zone with an inferior goal difference, and Fulham frankly looking like a far more cohesive unit, than our shoddy prospects without Wilson. Suddenly it felt like we needed something from Old Trafford to stop the increasing rot.

The brutal truth is that the right thing to do here would be to sit back, defend solidly and hope to hit Manchester on the counter attack. It’s a move pioneered by Rafa Benitez that has seen us frustrate a few of the so called big six in the past few years, but it’s been so utterly destroyed as a concept by Bruce’s excessive deployment of the tactic against sides like Sheffield United and West Brom, that it just brings waves of dread at the very thought.

As it happened,  the start was fairly open, with Joelinton’s plodding away in the middle counter balanced by the effervescence of Almiron and ASM either side of him. The folly of Joelinton was exposed a bit with the first real opening seeing him roll the ball to Willock instead of shooting, with the ball unfortunately ending up exposed to Shelvey’s erratic shooting.

Maguire seemed to be getting away with kicking and shoving our players about but the home side’s rough housing might have backfired as Joelinton, anonymous thus far, seemed to be struggling and the very suggestion of Fraser replacing him hinted at a madly creative front three of pace, flair and wizardry. Didn’t happen like.

After a half hour of being competitive, things were undone horribly because of course they were. Rashford scythed past Krafth with a magnificent run, which the Swede did well to get back from. Rashford got his shot off and it was a bit shoddy of Darlow to allow it to creep in the near post. The lad has had a great season keeping us in games and we owe him a few points, but I have to lend my voice to the growing opinion, that it’s time for Dubravka back. This goal may just be the catalyst for this to happen.

I always get a temptation to turn the game off and put a film on when we concede and you’re lying if you don’t. However, there was a spirited response to going behind. First Clark’s header across goal was left to bobble where a striker might be, then ASM hit a fizzing drive that De Gea did well to tip over. From the resulting short corner, Willock swung a cross in that Maguire half cleared as far as ASM, who thundered in a brutal equaliser that made me put the pile of Adam Sandler DVDs to one side for a bit.

It was nice to make it to half time level, but even nicer to actually be playing on the front foot and looking competitive, maybe we might be capable of edging out Fulham…

The second half opened brightly, with fine work from Almiron giving Shelvey the opportunity to hit the top tier of the Stretford End and another Saint-Maximin piledriver forcing De Gea into another save. Man Utd have done us a few times in recent years with the old “sense of false confidence” trick so I was as determined not to get carried away here as I was before Fulham rose up like a zombie. Then Joelinton did actually come off for Fraser and suddenly that front three was in place for the first time ever.

I was just about to put the Sandler vids back in the rack when Matic strolled through our defence and found Daniel James in an acre of space to smash the home side back in the lead, again at Darlow’s front post. Nightmare, that’s the chance blown.

Man Utd looked a bit livelier now, with Martial shooting over and then creating a moment where his collision with Darlow made you worry he’d give the ref an excuse to award Man U something. He was offside but I still got Happy Gilmore out the box ready.

The death knell came when Willock flew in a bit lively on Rashford in the box. The commentators initially described it as the kind of malicious hell tackle that deserves two penalties, whereas it looked to me like he just about failed to pull out in time. Fernandes rolled it in easily, despite the Newcastle players rightly pointing out to the ref that marauding lunatic Fred had infringed into the penalty area. They’d have scored the retaken kick anyway.

I put it off and stuck Billy Madison on at this point, as I’m not into self harm. Later checks of the BBC Sport website told me that nothing much else happened and there was still no sign of Steve Bruce being sacked.

So, on balance this wasn’t a bad showing at all and suggests we are more than capable of escaping the current predicament.

However, I would reiterate that relegations are not created or avoided by defeats at Old Trafford.

The next seven games are all eminently winnable and these will decide whether or not we stick in the Premier League for the prospect of takeovers and brighter futures, or slump off to the Championship for the horrific potential of a derby with an upwardly mobile Sunderland.

Failures in the coming weeks could be catastrophic, starting with the next Must Win against Wolverhampton on Saturday. Fitting that Sir Alex Ferguson was pictured in attendance tonight as we are now entering serious squeaky backside time.

Stats from BBC Sport:

Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1 – Sunday 21 February 7pm

Goals:

Newcastle United:

Saint-Maximin 36

Man Utd:

Rashford 30, James 57, Fernandes 75 pen

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was Man Utd 72% (73%) Newcastle 28% (27%)

Total shots were Man Utd 15 (5) Newcastle 10 (6)

Shots on target were Man Utd 7 (2) Newcastle 6 (4)

Corners were Man Utd 6 (1) Newcastle 4 (4)

Referee: Paul Tierney

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis, Willock, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin (Murphy 77), Almiron (Gayle 79), Joelinton (Fraser 55)

Unused Subs:

Dubravka, Dummett, Carroll, Ritchie, Hendrick, Sean Longstaff

Crowd: 00,000

(Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1 – Match ratings and comments on all the NUFC players – Read HERE)

(Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Sunday’s defeat – Read HERE)

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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