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Opinion

Why Manchester United shouldn’t be paralysing Newcastle United with fear

2 weeks ago
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This will be the third time that Steve Bruce has travelled to Manchester United with Newcastle United.

Based on those previous two visits, not a great deal of confidence.

Two visits, two defeats, seven goals conceded.

When you add in the circus of Ronaldo’s ‘homecoming’, fair to say that nobody is giving Newcastle United a chance of leaving Old Trafford with anything, apart from a heavy defeat and a place in the relegation zone.

Maybe those giving United the very lowest chances of picking up a point or better, are those NUFC away fans who are travelling down for the match.

However, I think there is room for optimism, BUT only if Steve Bruce takes the right approach.

Like most of you no doubt, I fear we will see Bruce in his default position, get all 11 players as close to their own goal / penalty area as possible, gift total domination to Manchester United, then pray they don’t score.

Meanwhile, the only attacking ‘plan’ being to give the ball to Allan Saint-Maximin just outside Newcastle’s own penalty area, then hope he runs up the pitch beating half the opposition to then score or create a goal for a teammate.

The thing is though, I think that if Newcastle United can show some enterprise and play with an attacking intent when given the opportunity, they could well get something.

Firstly, the Ronaldo factor.

To be honest, I think that this can be to Newcastle’s advantage, if approached in the right way. Yes, he is a great player but I reckon his arrival and likely debut could be more of a distraction for Man Utd than a boost on his second home debut. Newcastle will need to defend well but if getting numbers forward at the right time, a positive result is more than possible.

Secondly, my main piece of evidence to support the positive view, are the actual facts of the season so far for Manchester United, which I think have got a bit lost with all the Ronaldo stuff.

Yes they started with a 5-1 at home to Leeds but did that scoreline really properly reflect the game? I wouldn’t argue that Manchester United didn’t deserve to win but the scoreline is misleading in my opinion.

Leeds had more possession in the game (51% v 49%), very similar number of corners (4 v 5) and not a great deal of difference in the number of shots (10 v 16). However, Manchester United scored with five of their eight chances on target.

Leeds were 1-1 with over 50 minutes gone and then had one of those daft spells they are capable of against the better teams with good finishers, leaving themselves too open and conceding four goals in a 16 minute spell, Manchester United properly punishing them.

Then in the other two Man Utd games so far, I think there is even more positivity for Newcastle United, if they can go with a positive attitude and not an all out defensive attitude and a Head Coach telling them they are already beaten.

Manchester United only managed a 1-1 draw at Southampton in their second Premier League match of the season and were actually trailing from the 30th minute (a Fred own goal) until 35 minutes to go, when McCarthy should have saved Greenwood’s effort. Man Utd dominated possession (64%) but Southampton were arguably still the more dangerous and indeed maybe deserving of edging it.

The two sides had seven corners each and Manchester United only one more effort on target (4 v 3). Then in the closing stages Adam Armstrong lost out to David De Gea when in a one on one situation, then the former Newcastle striker failed to convert a late headed opportunity from a corner.

Their last game before the break saw Manchester United play Wolves and this time they were very definitely second best over the course of the 90 minutes. Man Utd winning due to a very contentious 80th minute Greenwood goal, when it should have been ruled out due to a foul on a Wolves player in the build up.

Wolves had only themselves to blame though, the better team with better chances over the duration of the game. The home side having 15 chances overall to the visitors 10, then a 6 v 3 advantage with efforts on target.

Amongst his saves was a possible save of the season by De Gea from Saiss, whilst Adama Traore caused all sorts of problems for Manchester United with his pace and direct running, a pointer to ASM’s potential if he is allowed to get further up the pitch and have the support of other Newcastle attacking players to ensure he simply isn’t outnumbered by Man Utd retreating players.

Looking back at what I have written above, my feelings are that if Steve Bruce goes back to the club he really loves with an all out defence ‘strategy’, it will mean certain defeat, very likely by a painful margin.

However, if approached the right way with positive tactics and team selection, the possibility is there to spoil Ronaldo’s homecoming.

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