Talking Points: Newcastle United 3-0 Manchester United

Author: Doron

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With City beating Liverpool yesterday, United had to win at Newcastle – something they’ve done fairly often – in order to keep the pressure on their rivals. A response to the Blackburn result was needed for United whilst Newcastle’s own lacklustre display at Anfield couldn’t be repeated. Ferdinand returned along with Giggs and Rooney whilst Lindegaard was chosen in goal.

Below, we discuss the talking points and invite Newcastle fans as well as United fans to join in the discussion.

Lindegaard in as De Gea is dropped

On Friday at his pre-match press conference, Fergie quite firmly stated that he’d play De Gea in goal against both Blackburn and Newcastle. De Gea went on to have a poor game and was one of the factors resulting in a home defeat to Blackburn.

When the team was announced today, Lindegaard was in goal. Amazingly, Fergie had gone against his word and to the surprise of many he even admitted he’d dropped De Gea because of his mistakes. Lindegaard would go on to have a decent enough game – he could do nothing about Ba’s stunning finish, nor Cabaye’s perfect free kick; however he was partly at fault for a communication break-down for the third goal.

I’ve stated before that it’s my belief that De Gea will go on to have a fabulous career at United; I’ve also said that the only way he’ll learn is to be played and get the mistakes out of his system. However, we need a bit of consistency between the stick – if for now, Anders is the right man for the job, then so be it. Give him a period of games in goal and bring De Gea back in when the time is right.

Too many poor performers (again)

Park – there are games that are made for him, that bring out his best attributes – work-rate most obviously. Tonight would have been perfect for him had United taken the lead however once the game was being chased, Park’s attacking abilities were rendered somewhat useless. He’s a better player going forward than he gets credit for but his crossing was poor and he wasn’t getting high enough up the pitch. Despite trying to hold a wide position, his natural instinct is to cut inside and it forced United to play too narrow at times.

Rooney – one of the most forgettable Rooney displays ever which culminated in seeing him subbed off. His movement was poor, his touch often dreadful and his general involvement and enthusiasm was missing. I maintain that when he’s paired with Welbeck, he’s better. As soon as Danny came on and made good runs, space appeared for Rooney. Was a classic ‘moan at everyone else’ Rooney night.

Berbatov – six goals in his previous three appearances was enough to earn him a third consecutive start. His contribution though was minimal. With the exception of a header on goal, he only touched the ball once in the final third of the pitch. His lack of urgency and general deep position gave neither Giggs nor Carrick much to aim at when in possession. Unsurprisingly, United’s game was expanded, stretched and moved higher up the pitch when Welbeck replaced him. Neat touches and sublime control aside, Berbatov proved exactly why Fergie’s left him out in the bigger games this season.

Nani – when he’s good he’s unplayable but when he’s not it shows how important he is to us. Tonight certainly ranks in the “poor” column. It wasn’t so much for him being selfish or not working hard but more that his final ball was awful. He attempted 8 crosses and only one found a United player – most were blocked by the first or second defender. Had it not been for the three players already mentioned having poor games, Fergie may well have considered putting Rafael at right back and moving Valencia onto the right wing with Nani taking an early bath.

Jones – another game at centre back, with another partner, and another poor performance. Jones’ start at United has been exciting but his performances at centre back have hit home that there’s much he has to improve on. Previously it’s been a case of poor positioning and awareness of where opposition strikers are; today though, as it was against Blackburn, he couldn’t handle physical opponents (Ameobi and Ba).

Chalkboard 1: Ferdinand and Jones tackles

Jones never seemed sure whether to commit to a tackle and get close or allow Ba/Ameobi the chance to try and control a ball before committing. Either way, it failed him on 7 out of 15 occasions. Fit again Ferdinand though showed Jones just how to do it, winning all of his tackles.

Hard-working, high-pressing from Newcastle wins the game

Newcastle’s victory came as a result of a hard-working team display. The tone was set by Ba and Ameobi who harassed and harried Ferdinand and Jones every time they were in possession.

Chalkboard 2: Ameobi and Ba tackling heatmap

The heatmap above shows just how high up the pitch Ameobi and Ba attempted their tackles – 100% within the United half and 80% of Ameobi’s in the final third of the pitch. It meant that Newcastle forced Jones and Ferdinand into either long balls or a pass back to Lindegaard to clear. Effectively, Newcastle choked United and where possible cut-out the middle men, Carrick and Giggs.

The desire to win the ball back and in general not allow United space continued past the strikers into the midfield. United’s wingers were often doubled-up on and in the middle a new challenge faced United – two very different styles of defensive play. Tiote was excellent, getting at United players fast and snapping away whereas Cabaye chose not to engage in physical contact but merely faced up to the United midfield, forcing them to try and play around him.

In defence, Newcastle chose to mix-up their strategy. They pressed high when United had the ball deep, squeezing the space available but when United had the ball in their half, they dropped deep, getting everyone back and ensuring no space behind them could be exploited.

The result of it all was that Newcastle became the first side in the league to keep a clean sheet against United and perfectly exemplified a couple of things. The first, worryingly is just how easy it’s becoming for teams to defend against United – men behind the ball works because United’s forwards are somewhat inconsistent and opposition sides are getting better players. Secondly, and the myth exists, teams always raise their game against United – we’re still their (plural) biggest game of the season and that automatically tends to raise performance levels.

Demba Ba

It would be wrong not to praise Ba after he tormented United. I never realised just how all-rounded he was – big but fully aware of how best to use his frame and he’s quick as well. His touch is excellent and both his hold-up play and link-up very good. His goal was a beautiful finish, it came from a nothing long-ball and whilst Ferdinand may be angry with himself, criticism would seem harsh for what was such an instinctive shot.

As United fell behind and had to chase the game, Ba profited. United committed men forward and huge gaps started to appear between the midfield and defence. Newcastle’s long-ball policy worked a dream as both Ba and Ameobi were able to latch onto almost everyone knowing that they had so much space around them.

What next for United?

As ever, there is something of a circus when United lose, let alone lose two games in a row. My dad who at best is a part-time football fan text me saying “I see United are in a crisis” – he wasn’t trying to wind me up but because of the success United have had, that’s the response of so many fans, both those who support the club and those, like my dad who don’t!

If United are “falling apart” (another phrase he used later on) then City who are just three points ahead must be creaking too. The reality check is that whilst United have flaws, we’re somehow still in a fight at the right end of the table (and that’s with all the injuries we’ve had too).

I know it’s hard for many to accept, especially because it’s used a lot, but this is a ‘transition’ side and may well be for another 18-24 months. It’s the phasing out of certain players and the phasing in of others, some of whom are yet to even make their PL debuts. We have no divine right to win every tournament every year, we of course expect to be competitive, but we can’t always be the best. We’ve been there before and we’ve seen how Fergie has re-built and ultimately gone on to win domestic and European trophies.

The centre midfielder issue remains, and probably won’t go away any time soon. Fergie clearly has faith in youngsters like Pogba and Tunnicliffe but they’re not ready yet and the reality is, some kind of good enough stop-gap (maybe Parker?) should have been acquired. Yet many forget that this side who apparently are rubbish and need revamping, were “amazing” only a few weeks ago after QPR and Fulham. Let’s not even begin to consider where we might be had it not been for all the injuries we’ve had. Our squad’s not great but it’s certainly not as bad as many try to make out that it is.

I wouldn’t say I have blind-faith; I’m not an eternal optimist but I think I try to be a realist where possible and right now I believe in the project that we have going on. I fully support our youth players and think some will have good careers at the club. I think that in the Da Silvas, Smalling, Jones, Cleverley, Welbeck etc we have exciting youngsters. It’s just a case of adding a marquee signing maybe to it all and allowing time for maturity before we hopefully will reap the rewards again of another Fergie-team. Patience is very rare in modern football but United fans have been good at it in the past, and may have to do so again now.


United missed the chance to put pressure on City and now have only a three point gap to Spurs who have a game in hand after a heavy 3-0 defeat at Newcastle. For once the team consisted of a more familiar midfield and defence but still lacked some balance.

The early exchanges and first half in general was fairly even with neither side creating any kind of opening – Berbatov’s deflected header hit the post and a moment of quality from Ba gave Newcaslte the half time lead. Ba’s goal arrived as Jones was beaten too easily in the air by Ameobi and his flick moved the ball into Ba’s stride and his volley nestled in past Lindegaard.

The second goal was the real killer as a Jones foul gave away a free kick 30 yards out which Cabaye expertly dispatched – again, no chance for Lindegaard. Jones ensured he played a part in every Newcastle goal by mis-judging a long kick from Krul late on and putting it into his own net as he failed to note that Lindegaard had moved.

A dour performance was only made worse by United’s attacking ineptness and a lack of thrust until Welbeck’s arrival – although by then the damage was already done. Next up is a trip to Man City in the FA Cup on Sunday. Realistically, United could lose three in a row but if ever there was a team to stop the run of defeats against, it must be City! Onwards and upwards – our faith and patience is going to continue to be tested!

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15 Comments on Talking Points: Newcastle United 3-0 Manchester United

  1. Agree that a stop gap signing such as Parker would have been an ideal solution in the summer. I remember us discussing it Doron and recent events have proved you right. He would have plugged the gap in defensive midfield for a few years while others mature and gain experience.

    Proves there is value if you look hard enough and do not bury head in the sand. Newcastle’s additions are testament to that also. Pardew and scouting team deserve a pat on the back.

    I am a big Berbatov fan but when did he last perform away from home. He has scored the odd goal but this can mask a poor performance. Anderson is in the same boat of being a bit of a homer when it comes to matches.

    Jones should be moved back to midfield alongside Carrick as last night exposed his weaknesses. He kept letting the ball bounce (cardinal sin) or mis-timing his jump.

    I expect we will have to play 3 in midfield against City or be overrun so Jones, Carrick and Anderson possible. Valencia and Nani wide with Rooney up front on his own. Might also be a chance that someone else plays instead of Rooney after last night’s shocker. He needs to realise it is not all about him and his constant moaning at team mates is becoming tedious.

    Rant over – great, balanced report as ever Doron

  2. common, you cant just blame a defender for all of the goals. yes he might have contribute to the causes of goal but football is a team game. anyway NUFC simply played a fantastic game from the way the hit long crosses and the killer finishing of BA just superb, free kick from cabaye just like old days of beckham. when teams just pin on Rooney MUFC just wouldnt perform, this is because they are to dependent on a single player. anyway NUFC also been too dependent on BA (the goal scoring machine) n hope more firepower will be added in the future

  3. The whole united team is poor at the moment. Dodgy goalkeepers, no midfield, defence at 6’s and 7’s, rooney out of form. Jones is more than likely suffering from Fergie chopping and changing the team/playing him in different positions. Give him a run in the same position. The lad is still young.

  4. I just want to say that Sundays game is the BIGGEST game of the seaon! If we lose, our season could be well and trully written off to be honest! Out of the cl(couldn’t give a fuck bout the Europa), out of the cc, and possibly out of the fa cup(the way we playing atm) & chasing city for the league. If we win it’ll be a totally different story! Up to the lads to deliver now. No excuses! Oh and Lindegaard needs to hit the bloody gym! He looks like a weed for a 26/27 year old. You can’t even compare him to Edwin its a joke! Fuck me I take United and football way to seriously at times! Can’t help it though. It means so much.

  5. Get used to it, for the next 25 years you are going to win diddly, 1 billion in debt lets see how well supported you are when you go spiralling through the divisions. Utd are now another Arsenal except with the crippling debt. Looks like you’ll have to get bailed out or be prepared to get peppered evey week. I’m just glad Fergie has decided to give it 3 more years. That way he gets to feel what its like to be a loser year on year. Enjoy while you can Fergie. City get to dump you out of the cup next. Doesn’t matter though does it, after all you were never interested in the domestic cups before, but now you are a loser, I expect you to change your attitude.

  6. @Bob Stokes – past precedent for United shows that the club have always been one of the best supported teams in the country even when in the old second division. Naturally the global fan base may shrink if the club do decline as you predict but won’t be as bad as you think.

    FYI the debt is not 1 billion and it’s not “crippling” – it’s managed fine, the only issue with it in terms of year on year impacts are the interest payments.

    Of course, United have pedigree in seeing the value in the domestic cups – as seen with the 2005/06 League Cup win in particular, that was crucial to propelling a young side onto the next level.

    You can be as bitter as you like and as jealous as you please but United with a supposedly poor side are just 3 points behind multi-billionaires, City (who will no doubt buy their way onto the next level again). There’s no embarrassment in not being able to compete with City, no side in the league can match them financially.

    I’m pleased you’ve taken the time to waffle on and write a load of wibble about a team that clearly you’re jealous of. “United – hated, adored, never ignored” rings so true!

  7. First off, amid the usual apocolyptic rantings we get when United are going through a bad patch, it’s pleasing to read Doron’s voice of reason. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be disappointed and discuss our concerns, it just gets terribly frustrating when United fans start ranting and raving.

    That said, a couple of things I wanted to express;

    Firstly Wayne Rooney. I must confess to be VERY disappointed with the issues he’s had over the Xmas period. Even before the his being dropped against Blackburn, I was concerned after his brief sub appearance when he came on in the win against Wigan. He came in the midfield role and was sloppy and poor in possession which had alarm bells ringing for me right away. In light of the “revelations” about his physical condition during training due to the excesses of a dinner on Boxing Day…well quite simply there can be no excuses. He is 26 years old and nowhere near fulfilling the potential he had when he first came on the scene. He’s still a great player but I fear if he carries on in this manner his career won’t be the career his talent merited.

    Re: Keeper. I would have preferred SAF to have kept DDG in goal but I don’t question his choice to put Anders in. We’re not privvy to what SAF would have seen in DDG demeanor in training after the Blackburn game and if he felt he wasn’t mentally right, he was better to pull him out. Had we lost last nights game due to a “mistake” by DDG, SAF would have been condemned for not removing him. I’m also convinced he will be a outstanding keeper for us in the future, just needs to work on his judgement and frame for now, the rest will follow as his talent is very clear.

    Re: Jones. I think in some cases he’s in the same boat as DDG, outstanding talented but just not ready for the CB position yet with an ever changing backline. I hope Smalling returns for the City game because I think he’s simply a much better defender and given he’s been at United longer, better integrated. Jones WILL be a CB, just now is not the time for him.

    My final concern would be, I think the profile of the squad in terms of positions is wrong. We have far too many wide men, Young was not a required signing this summer though at the price we got him I wasn’t complaining. He will prove a useful player but we’re in desperate need of at least 1, possibly 2 central midfielders and I think SAF has to consider dropping this idea of playing with two out and out wingers with two strikers. Even if we had signed a midfield or two this summer, this set up exposes the two central players too too much work which in turn exposes the two centre halfs as the opposition is able to get at them and consequently the at the goal. It’s no surprise the opposition has had so many efforts at our goal this season, I believe it to be primarily due to have two out and out wingers with two central strikers.

  8. To elaborate on some of your points:
    1. Park: totally agree – he won’t lose you games, but he certainly won’t win them for you.

    2. Defense – I have never seen so many mental errors made by the club’s defense, especially in the CM and GK. As much as I love Jones he has made a few to many mistakes. Rio has really never been the same since his string of injury’s last year. And I definitely don’t think Evans is the answer. It goes to show you how important a healthy Vidic is to the team. Last year he was a pillar and manu is missing that reliability in defense. Personally I think De Gea and Jones will become great players for the club.

    3. Rebuilding year – agreed. Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments on there not being the “right” player out there to buy is interesting when I think about your comments of mixing in a temporary “fix”, like Parker. I think if they buy a “superstar” he has to be 22-25 year old so that he can build around him with the up and coming youth. Over paying for Snijder may be over paying for a temporary fix.

    4. Patience – this is not the new age football. Buying a team is the norm these days.

  9. The performance last night was not exepetable, i feel there is no spark about the united team at the minuite. We are in a rebuildment stage granted but the team this year has been no where near the teams of yester years. We cant afford the players like man city so we have oppted for a different route of growing these players. This of course takes time but i fear by the time these new plyers are ready city will have already have bought the new superstars.

  10. “The centre midfielder issue remains, and probably won’t go away any time soon.”

    I have to disagree with that. Inadvertently, SAF found a solution to that “problem” by pairing MrJones with Michael Carrick. The real “problem” has been that all the injuries to Vidic, Smalling, Rio, and Evans has thrown a monkey-wrench into relying on that solution. Also, I don’t think that MrJones will EVER be as good in central defence as in midfield – he’s relatively short (only 6′) and positionally naive. OK, with experience he might improve his positioning but he’s unlikely to grow taller.

    For me, the key is that when you have complementary pairings – Carrick/Jones, Rio/Vidic or Evra/Nani or Welbeck/Rooney – then their synergy is greater than the sum of their parts. It certainly looked like Anderson/ Cleverley might have that synergy but injuries have forced to jury to take a break on making any kind of assessment of their partnership/complementarity. Or, look at this in the opposite way, it would seem that having Nani and Valencia on the right side would work wonders but, in fact, they get in each other’s way; similarly, Berbatov seems to get in TheWayneBoy’s way whereas DannyTheLad and Chicharito work differently and actually “make space” in which Rooney can play.

    This has been a peculiar season so far – the injuries have disrupted any sense of team-work and created a team of spare parts that is waaaay beyond the normal tinkering that SAF likes to indulge. The very fact that UTD are 2nd and “only” three points behind ManShitty is amazing; all the more so because Shitty have had almost no injuries. Maybe now the worm is turning – Balotelli will miss the match on Sunday with some sort of ankle problem; ToureYaYa has been recalled by his national team; Gareth Barry was red-carded against LiverPoo and he will be another absentee. That’s four first-choice players that will be absent – can they cope with that ? Who knows – but it will be a serious gut-check for them.

  11. John will not be a defender I saw his interview after Rovers game, He mainly state attacking part of the game. I guess that he has attacking mind not a defensive one.

    When you look at the game situation you can interpret it as attacking mind set or defensive mind set. Location you will take is totally different between two cases. John simply think about how I can attack.

    Rooney let the team down big time. He is good player but he think himself very big I think. Rooney is not as good as he think himself. Look at the national team performance, He is just time bomb, nobody know when he will explod.

    Berbatov cannot play with Rooney that for sure because both try to do similar thing. Nani should take things easy. He try too hard that is why he struggle. Nani will improve though.

    We have very small chance to defend title this season. Injury to Vidic was fatal blow, Nobody can defend properly at aerial attack. Attacking has been improved a lot but injury and New player like John, Smalling and co are not ready yet.

  12. Seems that you’re one of the very few people who’ve managed to notice Toon’s longball policy. CLEARLY, something gave them them the idea that United weren’t upto the mark considering aerial prowess. Hence every time they managed to snag a free kick, they had Krul come over and boot it all the way up the pitch.

    The best we can do is hope and pray our injury list doesn’t build up anymore. With Cleverley, Smalling, Evans and Rafael all likely to come back into the squad sooner rather than later, we should technically be able to hit full steam. With emphasis on “technically “. Also, I simply fathom why Pogba and Morrison haven’t started a game yet. Add to that the fact the Tunnicliffe seems certain to extend his loan at Posh. On a less morose note, I read somewhere that Fletcher may be back sooner than predicted!

    Regarding Jones, CB seems to be his weakest position. He looked very good at CM alongside Carrick, at QPR and Fulham but he was absolutely terrible last night. Lack of concentration I guess. Nani wasn’t any good either. And although I’m a big fan of Berbatov, I have to admit that yesterday’s performance makes him look more like a flat track bully than anything.

    Do we really need to buy? I think the answer to that is a matter of opinion, than of grave need. If we do buy, I really do not understand the need for a creative player. Our entire problem this season has been a worrying lack of defense! This said, I would definitely prefer Jordi Alba to Wesley Sneijder. A Javi Martinez wouldn’t be bad either. Or a Tiote for that matter. However, I’m not going to say “No” to a schemer if we do decide to buy one. Please God, not Sneijder. That man is made of the same material as Ledley King. A Rasmus Elm (who I’ve watched countless times) and I’ll be much obliged.

  13. Anandu @ 4:03: “I simply fathom why Pogba and Morrison haven’t started a game yet. Add to that the fact the Tunnicliffe seems certain to extend his loan at Posh.”

    It probably has to do with the difference between being a fan-boy and being an experienced man-manager. It seems to me that SAF isn’t quite as enthralled with the media circus around these two kids as the media wants to create controversy. Pogba and Morrison might be raw talents but the key word in that description is “raw” – they’ve got lots to learn about being professionals and they will do so – ALL IN GOOD TIME. The best example of a raw talent who was brought along too quickly is Jon Obi Mikel – five years ago he looked better than Lionel Messi in the u20 tournament; now, he’s marginal in a squad that is in need of an injection of young blood.

  14. Park – there are games that are made for him, that bring out his best attributes – work-rate most obviously. Tonight would have been perfect for him had United taken the lead however once the game was being chased, Park’s attacking abilities were rendered somewhat useless. He’s a better player going forward than he gets credit for but his crossing was poor and he wasn’t getting high enough up the pitch. Despite trying to hold a wide position, his natural instinct is to cut inside and it forced United to play too narrow at times. I’m sorry I don’t know this player you are talking about? Who is he?.Because I have never seen him play for UNITED?

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