Talking Points: Newcastle United 0-0 Manchester United

Lovenkrands shoots

AUTHOR: – Stretford-end

Manchester United failed to score at St James’ park for the first time since the 1999/2000 season to pick up a point in a 0-0 draw. Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney had great chances to open the scoring in the first half, whilst heavy Newcastle pressure early on created a number of chances after crosses from wide areas – including a Løvenkrands header just before half time. United stepped up their game in the second half and looked much the better side. Ryan Giggs spurned a glorious opportunity to open the scoring, whilst both sides had controversial penalty appeals turned turn. Here we discuss the talking points of the game and welcome both sets of fans to share their views.

Talking Points

Berbatov Omission

Not often do you see the Premier League’s top goal scorer on the sidelines missing a crucial fixture towards the business end of the season. Dimitar Berbatov was left out of the side, with many Reds citing his lacklustre performance at Wembley on Saturday as the reason for his omission. Put it this way, I can only think of three things as to why Berbatov was left out 1) Poor performance/attitude 2) Injury 3) A row with Ferguson. There is no doubt that Sir Alex can be stubborn, some might say petulant at times, however I do honestly believe that the manager always acts in the best interest of Manchester United, naive as it seems following Stam’s departure in 2001 and Beckham’s similar omission from the side who faced Leeds the year before. So why was Dimitar Berbatov left out of the side?

Since his brace against Blackpool, Berbatov has hit the back of the net twice, including a key strike against Bolton Wanderers in March. In the last seven Premier League ties, Berbatov has come on as a substitute – with his two appearances coming in the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool and the 2-0 victory over Fulham. My initial reaction to the ‘resting’ of Dimitar Berbatov was that of a ‘fatigue issue’ – following United running out of steam last season, which resulted in the club’s elimination from Europe and eventually the Premier League race. However, following Javier Hernandez impressive performances (including the range of sides he has scored against and the winners he has popped up with) and with Ferguson revealing (last season) that it is ‘hard to include’ the mercurial Bulgarian in a 4-3-3, it makes sense a to why Berbatov has all of a sudden fallen down the pecking order. Below is a table highlighting all of the goals scored by Dimitar Berbatov this season:

Table showing Dimitar Berbatov's goals in 2010/11

You can also find out more information on Dimitar Berbatov’s 2010/11 statistics. Berbatov is a sublime footballer to watch and when on his game, he can do anything with a football. As shown against Liverpool at home, he is capable of scoring exquisite goals, however he has been far too ‘quiet’ in some of the so called bigger games this season according to some Reds. Gordon McQueen spoke on TalkSport today, stating that Berbatov wouldn’t be going anywhere in the summer – but with Bayern Munich sniffing around and the form of Hernandez, can you see it happening?

United lacked ambition 1st half but better in 2nd

We’ll come on to Newcastle’s high pressing in a different talking point, however it was clear to see in the first half that United were both wasteful in possession and were forced back at certain points, which meant that Wayne Rooney’s first minute low cross to Javier Hernandez was the clearest opportunity of the whole half. Rooney did come close later on showing some excellent skill and balance to ride the challenge from the centre half before blazing over the crossbar, although Krul got a slight touch that was unseen by the referee. The diagram below highlights United passing in the first half compared to the 2nd half. It is clear to see that the United’s play wasn’t as deep in the second half and took the game to Newcastle, but just needed to find that finishing touch:

Manchester United passing 1st vs. 2nd half

One of the key reasons for this shift, most noticeably down the left hand side, was the change to the role of Ryan Giggs – who was obviously asked to move infield and try and influence play. The diagram below (top image is the 1st half whereas the bottom image is the 2nd half) shows the successful passes made by Giggs over the course of the two halves. With the withdrawal of Nani for Michael Owen, Giggs was asked to play alongside Carrick in the centre of the park (in the 81st minute), however only made four passes – so it is fair to say that he had clear instructions to ‘roam’ after the interval:

Ryan Giggs passing Newcastle

Now passing stats can be misleading and to be honest are quite mundane at times. However, the chart below does show that United upped the passing game in the second and improving accuracy. The charts previously demonstrate that United were higher up the pitch in more dangerous areas, so a vast improvement after the break:

Passing ratio vs. Newcastle United

It was just a shame that Giggs couldn’t have found the back of the net after popping up centrally to get on the end of an Evra cross, who exploited the space left by Welshman.

Newcastle Pressure & Targeting O’Shea

Although United upped their game in the second half and it is arguable were worth the three points following Giggs’ miss, credit should go to Newcastle for their energetic display in the first half. Newcastle pressed high up the pitch, which resulted in United giving the ball away more the usual and pushed the league leaders back toward their own goal. Despite the early chance for Hernandez, Newcastle carved open their own chances with (an offside that wasn’t given) Ameobi testing Van der Sar at the back post and Løvenkrands clumsily heading wide the pick of the bunch.

The chalkboard below highlights the Newcastle United’s successful passes throughout the first half, with heavy emphasis high up the pitch on the left handside where Newcastle obviously targeted the dribbling skills of Gutierrez against O’Shea, who I thought was poor tonight:

Newcastle United stats first half

It is interesting to note that in the bottom chalkboard, that Newcastle United won the ball 10 times, in United’s half, in comparison to 5 times, in the second half (with all five being headed flicks on). The majority of these balls won were via tackles, which demonstrates the high pressing game played by Newcastle early in the first half (70% of those tackles were made within the first ten minutes).

Løvenkrands & Hernandez: Penalties?

Both Javier Hernandez and Peter Løvenkrands were furious that they were turned down a penalty by Lee Probert, however I would like to raise the point that Hernandez was booked for ‘simulation’, but why was Løvenkrands not booked? Either it is a penalty or a dive? Its about consistency – did Probert believe that Hernandez dived to try and win and penalty and Løvenkrands didn’t? I’m not too sure. Either way, I think that BOTH players had a case to be honest, but their over the top reaction worked against them. I feel there was clear contact by Anderson, but the former Rangers man could have stayed on his feet – likewise with Hernandez, former Red Danny Simpson makes contact with the Mexican, but Hernandez goes to ground far too easy. I actually think the ref got both decision RIGHT, but shouldn’t have booked Hernandez considering his decision to not book Løvenkrands earlier in the match. I guess the fact the ball was cleared, it was easier to not give a yellow card. What do you think?

Match Conclusion

Manchester United failed to capitalise on Arsenal losing two points against Liverpool on Sunday in a 0-0 draw with Newcastle United. As stated, United haven’t failed to score at St James’ Park since the 1999/2000 season, where Duncan Ferguson volleyed passed a helpless Mark Bosnich. Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney both could have opened the scoring for United in the first half, whilst Ryan Giggs had a glorious opportunity in the second half to hit the back of the net from eight yards, but blasted wide. Sir Alex Ferguson will be disappointed with the result, however United have been here before and will know what pressures lie ahead. To get some perspective, in 95/96 United dropped three points in the last six games with a 3-1 loss away to Southampton (before going onto win a league and cup double), dropped six points in 98/99 with away draws against Leeds United, Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers (before winning a historic treble) and lastly in 2007/08 United dropped seven points in the last six games – drawing 2-2 away at Middlesbrough 1-1 away at Blackburn Rovers and losing 2-1 away at Chelsea (before winning the league and European Cup).

There will be many twists and turns ahead in the final five games, but Ferguson and United have been here before and will no doubt be ready for the challenges. Newcastle United performed very well first half and are now on 40 points, which should mean safety for next season. It will be interesting to see how United bounce back against Everton, who have been in good form of late, on Saturday and of course whether Dimitar Berbatov will play or not. His omission from the side drew similar comparisons with Ruud van Nistelrooy’s exclusion from the League Cup final in 2006 (even though the Dutchman actually made the bench that afternoon). Ruud was soon on his way in May, I have not idea whether or not the same fate lies for Berbatov.

AUTHOR: – Stretford-end

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20 Comments on Talking Points: Newcastle United 0-0 Manchester United

  1. I think the penalties….. well, I think both players tried too hard to make the ref think there was contact. Lovenkrands’ there was certainly some contact from the replays. For Hernandez’s I don’t know.

    As for why one was booked and not the other, the difference is quite obviously that the referee thought Anderson had some of the ball AND the player and that Lovenkrands was merely falling from the result of Anderson being physical in poking the ball. Hernandez, meanwhile, clearly hitched his left leg clear over Simpson before going to ground, and the angle of the referee’s on our claim worked against us whereas on Newcastle’s claim it worked for us, with Anderson coming around the player from the referee’s side and thus making contact harder to judge/

    I see absolutely nothing sinister in Hernandez getting a card and Lovenkrands not and I don’t see an inconsistency because I think the referee, rightly or wrongly, perceived two different types of incident. Or for the Anderson one he simply couldn’t see and was unwilling to guess/

    At the end of the day it’d be academic if we’d had a cutting edge and took what chances did fall our way.

  2. Thanks for the comments Ian and agree with them. As you know from reading my blogs, I’m never one to cry foul player towards United and I too didn’t see anything sinister in him booking Hernandez and not Lovenkrands – it was just an observation that I thought I would raise.

    If Giggs/Rooney/Hernandez scores we win the game.

  3. The Hernandez / Lovenkrands penalty issue is a difficult one. The difference is that there’s a conclusive angle for the Lovenkrands one, but no conclusive angle at all for the Hernandez one – we will never know if it was a penalty.

    I’m surprised you havent touched on what was, in all fairness, an absolutely dire performance from Nani, showing all the signs that he’s reverting to his bad old ways.

    Now, I’d love Nani to hit top form again as much as the next Red, but there’s just too much about the guy’s personality for him to ever achieive that. Frustrating.

  4. United’s return to mediocrity coincites with Anderson’s return. He is simply not good enough and unless Ferguson gets one of the playmakers he is often associated with as Summer prospective buys, Sneijder, Di Rossi, or Pastore United will win nothing next Season, that is if indeed they do this one.

  5. Hi Ben,

    I agree with you on Nani and I mentioned this over Twitter (that I should have discussed his playacting and petulance in the piece). So good point. I don’t think he is regressing, just a bad day at the office.

    Will take a read of your article later on.


  6. Another mediocre away performance up front, but pretty solid at the back. VDS might as well have brought a deck chair.

    Up the Spurs ;o)

  7. Berbatov might be sulky but rightly so. If he make a bad miss there’s much talk about it and he’s never given time or oportunity to play himself back in form like Rooney do. Chicarito,Giggs and Rooney had awful misses last night that actually could cost us the title but doubt they’ll get it all over themselves like Berbatov would? That the fans reacts this way doesnt’t surprise me but it saddens me that Sir Alex does. I suspect that he isn’t always acting in the teams best interest and I dare question his selection and handling both against Newcastle not to mention City (dragging off Berbatov sending on Anderson still baffles me). The best combination is Berbatov/Valencia/Chicarito and maybe Rooney tested in the role advanced midfielder instead of the clueless Anderson (our central midfielders have got less goals all together amongst them than one of our defenders alone and how many assists? There’s our real problem!).

  8. Nice report! Toon fan here – re. Hernandez booking – I think the ref got it right, he went down too spectacularly, whereas Løvenkrands looked like more of a tumble under the tackle. For the latter the ref was also distracted by Ameobi lying injured beside him, so may not have spotted the foul clearly enough. We’ve all seen both challenges punished in the past, so praise the ref for being consistent.
    Strangely,however, worse dives from Nani and Gutierrez went unbooked and overlooked, the former only getting a talking-to.

    A good 0-0, we survived the better chances; but a fair result.

  9. well done newcastle, you were robbed!…looks like the wheels are coming off fergies penny farthing!…if the title goes then its a trophyless season cos they’ve no chance in the champions league….yessss…city will have to put up a banner about uniteds trophyless seasons….ha ha

  10. Top quality article as always S-E. I confess I haven’t seen the game yet I was working till 9.00 and got home after the game finished.

    I’ll watch it today or tomorrow. I confess I was very surprised when we bought Berbatov as he doesn’t fit United’s way of playing post Cantona. Fergie has tended to go with pace and often one up front and counter attacking football with speed.

    As we can see by your stats Berbatov tends not to score in big games and Fergie doesn’t even start him in them now. The Liverpool game, Liverpool were playing awful and were closer to the bottom 4 than the top 4 at the time. I think in his opening season for Spurs he didn’t score against a top 4 team. I do think sometimes he has been able to help turn games coming on as a sub against tiring teams.

    I think the Rooney Hernadez partnership long term will be very special.

    I hear Giggs didn’t have a god game, when things like this happen I think you need others capable of turning in world class performances to make up for colleagues.

    I agree with you he could well leave. Why stay at United it is clear he isn’t a first team player and he has as good chance of winning trophies at Munich and they want him apparently.

  11. The pace the game was played-at was very casual, until the final 10 minutes; there were fits and bursts but overall it felt lackluster.

    Hernandez aside, I can’t think of anyone who performed particularly well. Rooney was involved but hadn’t the assured touch of his last few appearances, Giggs wasn’t great (Can somebody explain to me why he’s still taking corners for Utd? I’ve yet to see him beat the first man in 20 years, and it’s incredibly frustrating to see him jog out to take another) Anderson was rubbish (I really haven’t much time for that kid), Carrick wasn’t bad, Nani was dreadful and the back five were relatively assured after the first 25 mins. Nice to see Smalling pick the ball and run forward – refreshing from a centre half.

    I think we’ll get over the line, but we’re lucky that CSK London and Le Arse are having patchy seasons too. A few changes in the summer along with our returning fledglings and general play may improve next season.

    It’s a long season and the lads are bound to be feeling the strain at this stage, lets hope they can find the energy to compete in the CI semi and hopefully the final.

  12. Firstly can I say Carrick had a great game, played much higher up the park and moved the ball well, considering the number of games he’s played in the last 2 weeks, Saturday aside his passing has been much more positive and he was not afraid to carry the ball forwards on occasion last night.

    Anderson has all the gear and no idea. I think someone really needs to define an actual role for him, as a box to box CM he gets caught forward and loses discipline, as and ACM he can’t finish for toffee. Would it be worth looking into him playing a DM? he can tackle, he’s quick and his distribution is good.

    Giggs cannot start out wide any more @ 37 he cannot belt up and down the touch line. His passing game has come on leaps and bounds over the last 3 years he does look the part in the centre of midfield. He and Rooney have the ability & intelligence to interchange with each other, it’s clearly been effective and it seems to bring more out of Carrick.

    As for the speculation about Berbatov, I’m not sure why he was omitted completely but before we cast him aside as the scapegoat for Saturday and call for his sale lets look at it objectively.
    Put the £30.75m to one side and look at him as an individual within our squad. If we get rid what do we replace him with and how much will it cost us. Take an overview of the number of games he plays, the number of wins we acheive in those games, the number of goals and assists and we have a fine player with an excellent record in comparison to most strikers in the league, let alone 2nd choice strikers.
    Rooney’s form at the start of the season was as wretched as Berbatov’s is now yet he was given time to play through it.
    Up to now he has only ever expressed his happiness at being at United & has played 2nd fiddle to Rooney in most of that time(rightly so).
    Right now we could potentially have 3 players in the top 4 or 5 goalscorers charts come the end of the season, would we get that sort of return from Welbeck & Macheda on their return. If we go and buy someone who can score 15-20 goals it will take us into the £20m+ bracket, and will someone on that fee sit out big games.
    I tend to look at him to do a similar job to what Sheringham did for us when Yorke & Cole were the strike partnership with pace and the headlines.
    It also a similar situation to the Veron one, the player is not living up to the price tag but is still an effective member of the squad. Veron struggled with a number of domestic games but he was bought with Europe in mind and in the majority of the European games he played he was outstanding.
    Had we shown a little more conviction and matched Spurs £10m when we first went after him would we be having these debates?
    A disappointing result, but not a bad performance. It’s all about running the games down now.
    Great Post

  13. A number of points arise from this game which others have already touched on and i would just like to add to them.
    first things first we can all speculate as to why berbatov wasnt included but if it was due to the cup semi and him being made a scapegoat then im sorry but that is a disgrace and not in the interests of united. Last night we were crying out for some creativity and subtelty around the box and we could have more than used his intellgence even off the bench

    secondly i agree and echo the comments made by others above regarding anderson. i expect all the excuses that are normally trodded out for him to re appear but look at it this way if that was gibson who had performed in that manner he would have got slaughtered . and considering berbatov has his price contantly brought up should we mention how much we paid for anderson for very little return. his woeful performances aside is he aso rather injury prone because i would love to see his stats for games played in the last couple of years .

  14. Good article and interesting debate following! My Berbatov view was clearified in an earlier post – just wan’t to underline the fact that while Rooney seems to get all the chanses in the world (did he get a ‘I’ll play every game-clause in the contract when treatening he’d leave for City?), Berbatov has found himself on the bench even after brilliant games. With our obvious midfield problems I’m a bit dissapointed that Sir Alex seems unwilling to test Rooney as a central midfielder. He’s got the energy, agression, vision and passing ability to become the cm we need. He’ll bring both goals and assists from our cm, which our current cm’s seems unable to deliver (unless Giggs or Park plays in central positions). Play 4-4-2 with Rooney and Carrick cm, Valencia right, Nani/Giggs left and Berbatov and Chica up front and we’ll win the rest!

  15. Comment by Roger
    I see your point but my concern with playing Rooney in CM might see him pegged further back than where he can really effect the game. When Giggs & Carrick play together with Rooney playing behind Berbatov or Chicharito he can give us that 3rd man in midfield when under pressure & him and Giggs seemlessly interchange. If you put Rooney right in next to Carrick I can’t see Berbatov making that additional midfielder.
    Don’t get me wrong I defended the Berbatov in my earlier comment.
    Playing in ‘No 10’ role is a difficult role as you have to not only be part of controlling the game but you need to support the front man. Some may see it as ‘free role’ or armchair position but it probably takes a lot more discipline than people realise.
    As much as I like Berbatov I don’t see him controling a game like Rooney has done recently and he certainly can’t drive into the box like Rooney when when he releases the ball.
    He still has a place for me in a 442 with Rooney behind him especially in games where the opposition play deep and there is no space in behind for Chicharito’s pace to expose.
    Does anyone have any comments on my earlier point of turning Anderson into a defensive midfielder?

  16. i agree with ian, ref wasn’t impressed with the way Hernandez fell- wonder what would’ve happened had he nicked simpson’s leg and gone down straight? it was a borderline case – the clearer case was the tiote handball while blocking rooney’s effort – you can clearly see his arms come out ahead of him. if that’s a habit, he’s habitually using his arms as an aid to block shots. a punishable offence, for sure.

    giggs had to switch with rooney second half imo, because of the job tiote was doing on him. still couldn’t free him up enough, though..

  17. 3times; see and agree with your point regarding the deep striker. As goes for Anderson as defensive cm I’m not that convinced. I’ve got a snaky feeling that Anderson just doesn’t cut it in the english game/at United.

  18. Comment by Roger
    It’s the discipl;ine side of playing that role I think he would have problems with.
    For me it is a similar situation we had with Ince,SAF wanted hime to play as a holding CM as Keano was far superior going forward but Ince felt he was better than that & didn’t follow the managers orders, notibly against Barca.
    I just think he could play a similar role to Hargreaves (on the treatment table too lol) but he can cover the ground quickly, is strong and comfortable with the ball at his feet and would give us a good base to build an attack from.

  19. Comment by 3times; good point reg Hargreaves 🙂 Anderson… Well you might be right (I hope so) but I find myself doubting Anderson and, based on what he’s showed so far (and he’s certainly had his time and chances) he hasn’t convinced me that he’s got what it takes to play in any midfielder role at United. Dm; not diciplined or not powerful enough. Box to box; not enough stamnia. Am; can’t shoot, not a good dribbler and not a good goal scorer. Add for all positions that he doesn’t seem aggressive enough and he isn’t good spreading the ball around as well, I just can’t see it happen for us with Anderson. I reckon we need a leader in cm as well as a great player. We might have that player amongst the youngsters (Pogba) but not a player that seems ready right now. Fletcher and Hargreaves could have been that player but both has had much spoilt due to injuries and illness.

  20. By the way; there’s gonna be a lot of speculation about who’s going and who’s coming. Two players does pop up more regular than others though, and that’s Ashley Young and Wesley Sneijder. The latter could come as part of a swap deal seeing Nani leave for Inter. In my opinion this would be brilliant for us. Sneijder is the player we desperately need in our midfield – and he’s the free kick and corner specialist we’ve missed since Ronaldo/Beckham left. Young doesn’t do all the step overs and cutting inside and shoot like Nani, but he’s much more direct in his play and I can see him provide at least the same amount of assists and goals as we’ve got from Nani.

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