United in control the first half, Manchester then on top in second half
There’s something liberating about an early morning start, clanking along with a bag full of cans bound for another city.
One of the many tremendous factors of the renaissance of the past 12 months has been the added sense of hope these journeys have taken on, as there’s no longer the sense of doom in the background that your day out is likely to be ruined by an insipid Newcastle United performance.
As a matter of fact, you could apply that same mantra to home games as well, but it felt a bit special to be heading to Old Trafford of all places with a sense of real hope.
I wasn’t here in 2013 when Yohan Cabaye delivered the early Christmas present of a maiden PL away win v Man Utd, as a friend who is notorious for bad planning had his daughter baptised on that day. I’m also not extremely very old, so I don’t remember the wins of ancient times when Supermac and Tony Green were the best players in the world and you could leave your front door open (OK Boomer).
So, I rocked up at Manchester Victoria in genuine hope of seeing Newcastle improve on an awful record at this ground, and in this city for that matter. Old Trafford has been the worst venue of the Premier League era, as it matches Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea as places where we’ve recorded one solitary win, but each of the other venues has also seen us nick a League Cup win at some point, whereas there’s only Cabaye and a few draws to show for a miserable few decades of visiting the side that was always casting its shadow whenever glory threatened to shine on us.
For such a prominent city, Manchester is a bloody difficult place to hit for the match. The areas around both the grounds are devoid of bars, with seemingly endless acres of car parks, office buildings and new apartments separating you from a pint, a quick bite, or the long trek to the football ground itself. Old Trafford has more security checkpoints than Heathrow airport so it was nice to be at my seat in time for the kick off.
The early signs, and indeed the majority of the first half, suggested United were fully intent on meeting the expectations of those dreaming of an away win. A high energy start quickly brought the moment that we ultimately feel hard done by in retrospect. Longstaff dispossessed Manchester in their own half and swiftly played in Wilson, who charged into the box only to be clattered into and knocked over by Varane. Despite Manchester’s recent fall from grace, this is still not a place where you’re allowed penalties and the ref didn’t want to know. If I was playing devil’s advocate, I would suggest that some of the decisions the home side were after later in the game would have likely gone their way had we had the benefit of this decision, but you can’t help but bemoan that we was robbed.
United kept the pressure up and the other key moment soon arrived. Trippier’s free kick hit the wall, but rebounded straight back, and with the Man U defence advancing out of the box, Tripps planted the ball right on the head of the unmarked Joelinton. His powerful header smacked the bar and came right back to him. With De Gea nullified having dived for the initial effort it seemed straightforward for Joe to put us ahead, but power header #2 smacked against the post. Agonising.
For their part, Manchester barely threatened, their only effort a dos Santos’ scuff easily gathered by Pope and the half time whistle probably coming as a relief.
The second half was a far harder watch from the away corner, with a moment of panic as Ronaldo went around Pope to slot it in the net, only for the linesman to have long since flagged. What followed was frankly bizarre, as Schar returned the ball to Pope to take the free kick, only for Ronaldo to run in and dribble the dead ball away and put it in again, much to the annoyance of the ref and the baffled defence. Ronaldo choosing to believe that Schar had already taken the kick despite the obvious inactivity of all Newcastle players and getting himself a deserved booking for behaving like a big spoilt bairn. Manchester surrounded the ref in an echo of the petulant Ferguson teams of days gone by, but to be fair to Pawson, he was having none of it.
Ronaldo’s petulance continued with his substitution as he slumped off the pitch muttering to himself like Gollum before ripping the top off his sippy cup and pouring orange juice all over the dug out, then proceeding to call Ten Hag a big stinky stupid head who he hates and hates and hates and doesn’t want him to be his manager any more and it’s not fair because he wants to go to Smyth’s Toy Superstore but no one ever listens to him because they’re all horrible and he should be allowed to score goals when other people are taking free kicks and he wants to jump around and shout “zoo” or something. That’s how it looked to me anyway.
Unfortunately for United, the replacement of Kevin the Teenager with Marcus Rashford gave Manchester a fresh impetus and they had the best of the remainder of the game. This was particularly frustrating when compared to our own bench potential, as 70 minutes into a goalless game that needs unlocked would be a perfect time to u leash Saint-Max, but his injury recurrence in addition to pretty much identical news about Isak meant the bench was a bit short of game changers. I would have liked to see the surprise inclusion of Shelvey on the bench come to something, but Howe was obviously not inclined to risk him, so on came Fraser, Wood and Willock, with the latter replacing a limping Bruno that I am unable to entertain was due to anything other than a bit of cramp that has now gone and won’t come back because more injury distress is not what we need thanks ta.
Also limping off in injury time was Fabian Schar, who was absolutely immense and this reporter’s man of the match, just edging it from the easy class and stellar deliveries of Trippier. Schar seemed to be there whenever Man Utd threatened our box, with a strong showing yet again from Botman next to him, cementing our status as meanest defence in the Premier League.
This defensive capability was tested in the closing stages as the impressive Rashford looked to hurt us, first steaming away on the right past the onrushing Pope and squaring for Fred to fluff around the post. Then, in the closing seconds Rashford himself directed a header wide that would have been horrible to have to put up with.
It speaks volumes that the overall reaction at full time was maybe one of appreciation of the team’s efforts with a tinge of disappointment that we didn’t get the win, particularly after the first half dominance. Given that Manchester had the better of the second half, probably a fair result, but again we’re left to wonder about what might have happened were everybody fit.
A great day by the standards of trips to this place and hope will continue for our next venture here. Meanwhile, the job is very much on for overhauling Man Utd into that top six place, with the weekend results seeing us still in sixth and a mere point behind Manchester.
On to Wednesday night then.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0 – Sunday 16 October 2pm
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was Man U 63% (62%) Newcastle 37% (38%)
Total shots were Man U 15 (6) Newcastle 9 (7)
Shots on target were Man U 2 (1) Newcastle 2 (2)
Corners were Man U 4 (3) Newcastle 4 (3)
Referee: Craig Pawson
Pope, Trippier, Schar (Lascelles 90+1), Botman, Burn (Targett 78), Longstaff, Bruno (Willock 78), Joelinton, Murphy (Fraser 59), Almiron, Wilson (Wood 78)
Karius, Shelvey, Lewis, Anderson
(Former top referee rules on controversial Manchester United v Newcastle United incident – Read HERE)
(Official Newcastle United update on injuries / availability following Manchester United match – Read HERE)
(Erik Ten Hag reflects on Newcastle United – We broke them but didn’t kill them – Read HERE)
(BBC Sport anti Newcastle United bias and pro Manchester United is laughable – Read HERE)
(Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0 – The instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)
(Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0 – The three big points that I’m taking from the match – Read HERE)
(Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0 – A great point but Joelinton holding his head (twice!) and penalty on Wilson? – Read HERE)
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