If we can have a few more days like today please… Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0
The way things have landed, there are two sections left of this season.
This current onslaught of fixture, which started with Chelsea last week and ramps up to what could be 14 games in a relentless seven week period, and the entire rest of the season, the success of which will be heavily influenced by what happens across this timescale.
It was heartening to start with a win against Chelsea followed by the excellent performance in Paris, but going into this one I felt the emergence of a fear, a fear that will sit in the background of the entire Christmas period.
The fear is twofold, initially worrying about picking up more injuries to add to an astonishing and ever growing list (more on that later), accompanied by an increasingly pertinent concern that the exhaustion factor on our current starting XI takes it’s toll, especially in the latter stages of matches.
It seems Man Utd were wise to this, winning the toss and sending us the wrong way down the pitch, meaning the slope might aid the impact on tired legs. In fairness, this was one of the best fixtures we could have had, as the visitors travelled further than us and played a day later, so we were facing an opponent who had also had a testing week, with their 3-3 draw in Galatasary compounded by a few hours stuck on a bus on Saturday after their flight to Newcastle was cancelled (yep, flight. To Newcastle. From Manchester).
If fatigue was a factor today, it was exclusively the men in red who were feeling it. From the very off, United were magnificent, tearing down that slope at the visitors in what felt like a constant wave of attacks. Onana’s slightly dubious display midweek led to him being singled out by the crowd, with many cries of “shoot” when players advanced on the goal from distance. To give him his due, the goalie was probably Man Utd’s best player.
There was almost a ridiculous concession early on though, as Gordon’s harmless deflected shot caught Diego Dalot in a right mess, kicking the ball off himself (which led to a handball check) and confusing the onrushing Onana before booting it clear when a hilarious and brilliant own goal may have been on the cards. Spoilsport.
Onana would then show his quality with a fine save from Almiron, who tried to steer the ball in with precision from Joelinton’s cutback, with the Cameroonian international diving full length to palm the shot away. Miggy has been outstanding in this trio of games and I was waiting for his cut inside and shoot effort that has been a regular difference maker these past couple of years. When he did get the chance the shot was high and wide.
Miggy then turned provider, his overlapping run onto Bruno’s perfect through ball a thing of beauty. The centred ball was deflected into the path of Isak, who looked certain to score from all of four yards, but Maguire got enough of a touch to divert the shot wide.
United were relentless and I can’t recall Manchester venturing out of their own half. When Schar went barrelling forward, we could all sense a Fab special coming, but he was upended before he could get the shot off. It seemed that Schar fancied the free kick too, however, this was firmly in Kieran Trippier territory. Tripps struck it magnificently, with a hint of Yohan Cabaye’s similar effort against this opponent a decade or so ago, with the exception that the bar helped Cabaye’s in, whereas it kept Trippier’s out.
Set plays were again used to solid effect, as the neat little trick of switching a corner across the field for Gordon to deliver a cross from the opposite side the defence expect, almost worked again, with Lascelles directing his header uncharacteristically wide. With half time coming and the game still scoreless, there will have been a few like me that attended this fixture in February 1996 and had bad memories of not making the dominance count in the opening 45.
Fortunately, it did not take long for the settler to arrive, as the old overlapping run / marvellous through ball was deployed to devastating effect. Trippier beat some weakwilled Man Hester player to the ball and offloaded to Isak, then on to Bruno, who picked out Trippier’s run with another beauty of a pass. The defence was all over and Wan-Bissaka had completely lost Gordon, who latched on to the perfectly weighted centre to smack in a very welcome goal.
Once again, Lewis Miley was excellent, facing up to yet another huge opposition and being entirely unfazed. He almost had that breakthrough moment of a first Newcastle goal, latching onto Joelinton’s cross but seeing it blocked by Wan-Bissaka.
A similar situation then occurred at the other end, with consequences that put a bit of a crimp on an otherwise excellent day. Reguilon’s shot from distance was comfortably blocked by Schar, but Nick Pope had already dived and was immediately in some distress. The way he was led off looked very much like a dislocated shoulder and Eddie Howe later confirmed as much, with talk of operations and such suggesting that Martin Dubravka will have a considerable role to play in the challenges ahead. It’s not like the injuries are characteristic of something we’re doing, they’re just a collection of mad freak occurrences, what Premier League club has two dislocated shoulders at the same time. Talk about bad luck man…
Speaking of luck, Man Utd have a strong history of getting the other kind, and this was nearly employed in full when they got the ball in the net in the dying moments, having offered the square root of nowt for the previous hour and a half. Antony thought he’d scored but the linesman had seen Maguire deflect the ball in from a blatantly offside position. This was a brilliant moment of realisation for Antony, wiping the smile right off the most smackable face in football.
Antony was one of many underperforming Mancs who were bossed about in midfield as Newcastle made this one of the most one-sided 1-0s most of us will ever see. Livramento was excellent in driving play forward from the left, like having two Trippiers on the field as the man himself linked up with Miggy on the right. The standout for me though was Bruno, performing at his brilliant best as he controlled the play, holding the ball then finding that sweet opening to thread inch perfect passes into. With him in this form you can look at the games ahead and fear no one.
I’m glad we’ve banked these points now, as well as shunted Man Utd out of the cup, as this version of them is incredibly weak. They seem to have done a grand scale Everton in blowing an offensive amount of money only to have a team that looks bang average, yet somehow hangs about in the top six due to what seems like a combination of generous VAR calls and fluky late goals. This was apparently the latest in a long line of shoddy displays against fellow top six sides and you can’t help but wonder if change is afoot in their season that might see a bounce at some point. Hopefully it’s not a long one and they continue their descent to irrelevance.
As for United, we had a great day, rubbing it in at the end against a fanbase which have overseen so much misery inflicted on ours.
As Manchester left to get the I Bus home (snigger), Eddie was left to ponder yet another injury.
With the games coming thick and fast, it seems ridiculous to hope anyone can come back into consideration for the next one. I don’t know if any of Barnes, Longstaff or Wilson are potentially in the territory of getting back soon, but I think all others will be canvassed until well after Santa’s been.
I honestly don’t know how long this team can keep this up, if decisions need to be made on prioritising the league, cup or Champions League, or if it just becomes an old style set XI that go out and boss every game they play until that glorious two week break that may even see the transfer window bring further salvation.
If we can have a few more days like today please, that would make for a very Merry Christmas.
Stats via BBC Sport:
Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0 – Saturday 2 December 8pm
Possession was Man U 42% (40%) Newcastle 58% (60%)
Total shots were Man U 8 (2) Newcastle 22 (14)
Shots on target were Man U 1 (1) Newcastle 4 (2)
Corners were Man U 3 (0) Newcastle 7 (4)
Referee: Robert Jones
Attendance: 52,214 (Man U 3,000)
Newcastle United team v Man U:
Pope (Dubravka 86), Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Livramento, Bruno, Lewis Miley, Joelinton, Almiron, Gordon (Ritchie 90+7), Isak
Karius, Dummett, Krafth, Hall, Diallo, Alex Murphy, Parkinson
(Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0 – Match ratings and comments on all of the NUFC players – Read HERE)
(Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0 – Instant NUFC fan / writer reaction – Read HERE)
(Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 0 – So embarrassingly one-sided – Read HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
Newcastle United confirmed matches to mid-January 2024:
Thursday 7 December 2023 – Everton v Newcastle (7.30pm) Amazon
Sunday 10 December 2023 – Tottenham v Newcastle (4.30pm) Sky Sports
Wednesday 13 December 2023 – Newcastle v AC Milan (8pm) TNT Sports
Saturday 16 December 2023 – Newcastle v Fulham (3pm)
Tuesday 18 December 2023 – Chelsea v Newcastle (8pm) Sky Sports
Saturday 23 December 2023 – Luton v Newcastle (3pm)
Tuesday 26 December 2023 – Newcastle v Forest (12.30pm) Amazon
Monday 1 January 2024 – Liverpool v Newcastle (8pm) Sky Sports
(Weekend of Saturday 6 January 2024 – FA Cup third round matches)
Saturday 13 January 2024 – Newcastle v Man City (5.30pm) TNT Sports
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