Manchester United fan ‘view from the other side’ on Newcastle United and Sunday’s match
After another pretty spineless defeat at Stamford Bridge, things don’t get any easier for United with a trip to Old Trafford to take on a side flirting with a title challenge – Man Utd.
We desperately need to start taking points on a more regular basis to pull away from Fulham – although the prospect of a better run starting this weekend seems slim.
Trips to the home of the Red Devils have followed a familiar pattern in recent years.
We score surprisingly early, giving the away end a moment to savour, before a heartbreaking collapse. In fact, not since Steve McClaren was in charge have we managed to keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford.
We have won only once in just shy of half a century in league visits to the Mancs, a brilliant victory in 2013-14 thanks to a goal from the newly retired Yohan Cabaye.
Will we get a second on Sunday?
I can’t say I have much optimism, but then Steve Bruce does have a knack of getting a win when he desperately needs to, or is even that most minor of powers starting to fade?
Before the game I got the view from lifelong Manchester United fan, classy five-a-side striker and good mate, Lewis Clark.
Here is his take on classic past NUFC-MUFC encounters, whether Ole should be ‘at the wheel’, and what will happen when the clubs meet on Sunday night.
This is the view from the other side…
Jack: What have you made of Manchester Utd’s season so far?
Lewis: Progress is being made certainly. We are higher in the table than I think any of us expected at the start of the season.
Having said that, one week we look great but the next we can look out of ideas. We have to learn to stop throwing away points like we have over the last few weeks, so Sunday will be an important fixture for us to get back to winning ways.
It’s always nice to pick up a trophy and I think we have a real chance of that this season – the Europa League is our best bet.
Jack: What have you made of our (Newcastle United’s) season so far?
Lewis: It’s hard to say because the only time I’ve seen of Newcastle from start to finish this year was the reverse fixture back in October. We were fresh off a 6-1 defeat at home to Spurs and for most of the game it looked like we were going to drop a couple more points. I thought you played pretty well that evening – if you had said to me back then that by the middle of February you will be 17th in the table, I wouldn’t have believed you!
Jack: Do you rate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a manager? And if/when he leaves who should be the next manager?
Lewis: Yes. He is the right man for the job as things stand. I have been impressed with his vision for the club.
Before Ole came in we had a lot of fringe players just taking a paycheque and not showing anything on the pitch. We also struggled with our recruitment strategy and building a team to fit a system.
He has been ruthless in selling players who have not been good enough (Fellaini, Sanchez, Lukaku, Young etc.) and has created a more balanced side. He will need backing again in the summer. We need to sign a world class CB and Right sided forward, but progress is being made.
You only have to look at the distance we have closed between Liverpool and City to see. Where I think Ole needs to improve is his game management. There have been a few questionable substitutions that have been made to either see out a tight game or try to win a game.
I also think we have recently lacked ambition against some of the top clubs this season – we looked poor against a struggling Liverpool side and also against Arsenal when they should both have been there for the taking.
Jack: Come on then, where will MUFC finish this season?
Lewis: I think we will just about manage to finish second but it could easily be third of fourth, it’s so tight. City have upped a gear since the New Year and will easily romp the league.
It will be close in behind – if we can stop conceding the first goal and improve our game management, then we should be there or thereabouts.
Jack: I’m sure the choice is endless but, what is your favourite Man Utd V Newcastle memory from your time as a fan?
Lewis: Tough one. I’ve had some cracking away days at St James.
But my favourite memory would be the 6-1 win at Old Trafford in 2008. That team was so special. I miss seeing Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez upfront and Van Der Sar, Rio and Vidic at the back. That team has to go down as one of the best PL teams ever.
Jack: How about your worst Man Utd V Newcastle memory?
Lewis: Fast forward eight years to 2016 and we lined up at St James Park with a back four of Young, Blind, Smalling and Darmian, and a midfield quartet of Fellaini, Schneiderlin, Lingard and Herrera – how times change.
I was at the game that evening and although I couldn’t see much because I was up in the Gods as you are at St James Park, it was incredibly frustrating when Dummett popped up and smashed in an equaliser in the last minute (I mean, seriously, how often has he done that? He shouldn’t have been anywhere near the edge of the area). Nonetheless, we drowned our sorrows in the Bigg Market Bierkeller and had a great night in the Toon.
Jack: Thoughts on football behind closed doors?
Lewis: Terrible. We have gone behind first in so many games this season I think it would’ve help massively to have a full stadium of fans to kick them into gear.
Jack: Who do you think was the best player to play for both clubs? Andy Cole? Louis Saha? Nicky Butt? Alan Smith? Keith Gillespie?
Lewis: Gabriel Obertan? He was electric for us, scoring 0 goals in 14 PL appearances before moving to your lot and scoring 2 in 58 games?! Joking aside, surely it has to be Andy Cole right? Although I, and many United fans, do love one-nut Butt.
Jack: Anyone you would sign for MUFC, from the current Newcastle United team?
Lewis: I honestly don’t think so, no – sorry.
Jack: Fair enough, Who has been MUFC’s standout player so far this season?
Lewis: The obvious (but correct) answer is Bruno Fernandes. The impact he has had since his arrival has been unparalleled. His match statistics and our progression in the table reflects that. But aside from the obvious, I think two other players stand out.
Luke Shaw has been immense. I hold my hands up, I haven’t always been his biggest admirer but, since the arrival of Telles he has come into his own. Now he is playing week in week out which is key to his confidence and we look a whole lot better in both our forward play and defensive shape when he is on the pitch.
I also think Scott McTominay has been fantastic for us this year. He looks comfortable on the ball, dictates the tempo of the play, runs his heart out for 90 minutes and is bagging a few goals along the way. There is no doubt we look a better team when these three players are on the pitch.
Jack: Who leads the line long-term for MUFC? Greenwood, Rashford or Martial?
Lewis: I think we need an out and out number 10 to play alongside Rashford and Greenwood. Marcus is a great player when he is running at defenders and cutting in from the left-hand side. He isn’t is ruthless enough in front of goal (yet) His one-vs-one finishing is questionable, but if he improved this part of his game, there is no limit to how far he could go.
Greenwood looks like he will be a classy player for us. Unlike Rashford, his finishing is deadly. I’m glad he has just signed a new contract because he has a big future ahead of him.
I am not Martial’s biggest admirer and I know many United fans who are slowly getting frustrated with him. His work rate this season has been awful and there is no urgency in his play. Every now and again he shows his brilliance but not enough to be playing at the top level every week. I see him as more of a luxury player to bring on when we are 2-0 up and cruising. Obviously, I hope he proves me wrong.
Jack: Finally mate, score prediction for Sunday’s game?
Lewis: I think it will be similar to the reverse fixture. Let’s says 3-1.
You can follow the author on Twitter @JackLaceySport
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