Serious blow for Erik Ten Hag and Manchester United as Newcastle United preparations go badly wrong
Manchester United opened the season with defeats to both Brighton and Brentford, with six goals conceded.
The pressure already piling on after only three hours of Premier League football in charge, Erik Ten Hag desperate to find some form.
To be fair, he and his players have responded well.
Whilst the football under the new manager might not have have been that exciting and they have carried their luck in some narrow victories, nevertheless, the last six Premier League matches have seen five wins for Manchester United, with only a hammering at home by Man City to spoil the run.
In this World Cup season when matches are packed into an even tighter schedule, Manchester United are one of those Premier League clubs who are also having to fit in six European (Europa League) group games in by Thursday 3 November.
A bit like the Premier League, Manchester United made a disastrous start in Europe as well, losing at home to Real Sociedad, meaning that despite having been given one of the easiest groups possible, they were already under threat of not qualifying. The format has changed and now only Europa League group winners are guaranteed to progress, runners up in each group go into play-offs.
Starting last night (Thursday 13 October), in a 31 days stretch, Manchester United had ten games to fit in before the World Cup break.
Last night Manchester United were facing Omonia, the Cypriot club assumed to be the whipping boys of the group, already having lost all three games and conceded eight goals.
At this stage, with all of those ten games to fit in before the World Cup break and with Newcastle United to play only 64 hours after this Europa League game would end. Pretty safe to say that Erik Ten Hag never intended to start with this team against Omonia…
de Gea, Dalot, Lindelöf, Martínez, Malacia, Casemiro , Fred, Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo
The Manchester United boss picking basically his full strength first team, with the exceptions of Eriksen and Shaw.
The plan clearly to make sure they beat the group no-hopers with the first choice players, get the match done in the first half, then make a load of early subs to rest the star players and then coast the second half.
However, instead we saw a very different game and Eddie Howe would have been loving it.
He has had eight days in between to prepare for the match at Old Trafford, then here he is watching Manchester United only two and a half days before the Newcastle game, having to play the first team and end up having to throw everything at the Cypriot minnows.
Manchester United pretty much completely dominated the game but were always having to work hard, as Omonia had quick players (Bruno especially) on the break, so did have a threat. Man Utd failed with chance after chance as an inspired keeper, the woodwok, committed defending and wayward finishing, meant they just couldn’t score.
Still 0-0 at half-time meant Ten Hag couldn’t take off and rest his star players and so it continued.
The Manchester United boss even forced to bring on Shaw and Eriksen who no doubt he’d wanted to rest totally with Newcastle United in mind.
It took the third minute of added time for Manchester United to at last get the goal / winner, ironically it was substitute Scott McTominay who got it, he can’t even play on Sunday as he is suspended.
However, most importantly for Newcastle United, the likes of Fernandes, Ronaldo, Martinez and Rashford had all been forced to play the entire match, Casemiro having to do 81 minutes, Antony an hour.
In European terms, even with that win, it still only gives Manchester United a chance of finishing top of the table, Real Sociedad are still top by three points with only two games to go.
As for Eddie Howe and his super fit team / squad, he / they will have been looking at their TV sets with a smile. Manchester United have actually had to play twice since Newcastle United last did, a tough game away at Everton on Sunday night that they edged 2-1, as well as last night’s game.
You look at a 37 year old Ronaldo, he was a sub at Everton but forced to play over two thirds of the game when Martial was injured off, then having to play the 90+ minutes last night. Will he really be up for another start so soon on Sunday?
Whatever small margins you can get in the Premier League are ever so valuable and the likes of Rashford, Ferndandes and Casemiro having to put in all those hard yards last night, will only have given the likes of Bruno, Joelinton, ASM, Wilson and others, every extra motivation and belief that Old Trafford on Sunday is an occasion where United can have a real go at Man U.
I can’t wait.
Erik Ten Hag will obviously know he can’t play all of his first choice players every match and even better for Newcastle United, Manchester United have tough games only three days (Tottenham) and six days (Chelsea) later, following Sunday’s NUFC clash.
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