Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United: Problems mount

Manchester United v. Newcastle United
United never looked like getting back into the game after conceding.

Author: Rob

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Another home game, another 1-0 defeat for Manchester United, this time at the hands of Newcastle United. Last Sunday at Spurs, the side entered the week full of confidence after thrashing Bayer Leverkusen and having recently taken down table-topping Arsenal at Old Trafford. It’s safe to say that, after a draw against Spurs and two deserved home beatings by Everton and Newcastle, Mr. Moyes, the players and United fans worldwide won’t be bursting with optimism as they trudge in to work on Monday.

Twelve games in, United’s start to the Premier League campaign was underwhelming but largely explicable – with a new manager, tough opening fixtures and injuries to key players all taken into account. Since then, however, things have worsened dramatically. It’s become a crisis, – a large, signposted crisis. We’ll look briefly at what went wrong on Saturday, as well as some of the issues that need fixing if United are to come back stronger, as we always know them to do.

A forgettable first half, a dreadful second

It was really a very dull first half, in all honesty. Neither side had much adventure about them – you would expect that from Newcastle, as they were the visitors – but in contrast to the first half of the midweek Everton game, United could not even fall back on a decent performance to paper over the frustrating lack of goalmouth action. In the second half, Newcastle got their goal, and United scarcely offered any credible resistance. They’ve only scored eight goals in eight home matches – only three (!!!) from open play – and the idea of Old Trafford as a ‘fortress’ has quickly been dispensed with. While the team is still occasionally good at football, the veneer of intimidation – which scared so many visiting teams into their shells, leaving United to swat them aside – has been lifted with the retirement of its most frequent custodian.

If you’re a masochist and want some more details about the performance, here are some of the dull observations I wrote, in a dull fashion, while watching a dull and frustrating football match:

“Midfield started OK, getting into decent attacking positions early on and spreading the ball to the wide players. Nothing hugely flashy, as you’d expect from two technically-limited midfield players, but at least some admirable displays of effort. Newcastle’s midfield three eventually grew into the game, and after halftime they shut down any forward momentum from United with alarming ease.”

“Lots of passing around the back, as Newcastle started off pressuring the midfield in their own half. United showing patience rather than immediately hitting a long ball under pressure. Not much ambition to the passing, unfortunately.” [Note: this patience was not in evidence after Newcastle scored. From that point on, United launched increasingly hopeless passes skyward in the direction of the towering behemoth known as… Javier Hernandez.]

“Januzaj led some excellent attacks in the first half. Sloppy passes out from the back led to the best situations for Newcastle, who did little of their own invention. They were clearly set up to counterattack with the pace of Rémy being their chief threat. Newcastle’s evil midfield duo of Cabaye and Tiote, who butchered United in early 2012, gave away a huge amount of fouls which gave the Reds their best looks at goal. Unfortunately, United’s set pieces were mostly tame, and well dealt with by the Geordies’ centre-back pairing of Williamson and Coloccini.”

With that happy business out of the way, I’ll try to sum up some of the mounting problems that United have faced this week, and throughout the season.

Problems, problems

Many of the issues that were apparent in Fergie’s final few campaigns – weak midfield play, static players providing few viable passing options – were massively prevalent again on Saturday. Not for the first time, Mr. Moyes made some ‘positive’ subs after going behind, which maybe pleased some fans but had no real influence on the game. Throwing on attacking players only makes sense if you’re already dominating and need to finish off the chances already created. It wasn’t obvious that this was the case when Zaha, Anderson and Valencia ran on. Of course he’s still getting to know his squad, but thus far Moyes’s subs have frequently done nothing to affect the team positively, and have often made things worse. Less encouragingly, it seems that he’s afraid to make any alterations to the team’s stodgy, porous shape, leaving United looking very predictable in crucial situations.With Michael Carrick injured, Wayne Rooney suspended and Robin van Persie not looking match-fit yet, there was a serious shortage of inspiration in the side. The situation wasn’t helped by a home crowd that was occasionally supportive but largely inaudible, and counted some moronic traffic-beaters among their ranks. Newcastle scored in the 61st minute – an unfortunate clearance from Evra bounced kindly for Moussa Sissoko, who crossed for Cabaye to sidefoot the ball in off Vidic’s flailing leg.

But let’s not pretend that United never gave lifeless home displays like this under Sir Alex Ferguson. In the final four years of his reign, United were frequently somnolent in their approach play and neglectful in protecting their goal at Old Trafford – countless scrappy, nervy, narrow wins against the likes of Norwich, Bolton, Hull and Sunderland in recent years will attest to this. The crucial thing, however, is that for all the wretchedness of those performances, United still managed to win these home games more often than not. It’s still extremely early in Mr. Moyes’s reign, and he should be given the requisite time to try to pull the club out of such a mess, but such performances – moreover, such results – suggest a lack of motivational skill on his part and an embarrassing lack of fight from the players, whose lame response to adversity can’t all be blamed on the manager. The Everton loss – where United were competitive for 70 minutes but barely had a kick in the final 20, conceding a crucial late goal again – showed another former strength being turned into a weakness. Previously famed for closing out tight games strongly, United have been alarmingly weak in allowing opponents late goals to change the outcome of a game – Shakhtar, Cardiff, Southampton and Everton have all exploited this in recent weeks.

What’s worrying is how easily Newcastle won on Saturday. They were not excellent, unless that word has become so completely debased that it now means merely ‘competent.’ They simply executed a simple gameplan, repelling what needed to be repelled, and attacking when the opportunity presented itself. That United were so acquiescent to their plans is much more of a mystery. In both the West Brom and Newcastle defeats, United had roughly thirty minutes to salvage the situation from a losing position. In both games, United hardly fashioned  a chance, far less a goal, after going behind. This stands in stark contrast to the immediate past where, through bloody determination, the side bludgeoned and battered teams for having the temerity to take the lead, with thrilling comebacks one of the defining features of Fergie’s United.  The playing staff has barely changed, so fingers will inevitably be pointed at the coaching and managerial team. But the squad, featuring players with thousands of appearances between them, cannot be completely excused.

Mr. Moyes can be questioned for playing an unfit Van Persie for 90 minutes, but surely he could have expected better of Chicharito, of Nani, of Cleverley, of Evra? While United have missed some of their best players recently – including Robin for the four games prior to Newcastle, Carrick until the end of December, Rafael from the Fulham game until Wednesday – the consistently poor league performances speak volumes about the squad’s brittleness at the moment. Shorn of Ferguson’s miraculous ability to coax brilliance from lesser talents, it appears to be a team of players who mostly ‘will be’ or ‘have been’ world-class, but one that lacks players who currently are of world-class pedigree. We can no longer point to the fixture list and look for ‘winnable’ games, as United have lost or drawn many of those already. All we can do is hope that Mr. Moyes gets things right in January and beyond regarding signings and lettings-go, establish more of an identity to the side – perhaps one that can consistently apply the grit and opportunism showed against Arsenal – and that this provides a platform for a turnaround in the team’s fortunes.


This latest home defeat to Newcastle simply added to the mountain of woes that’s plagued United in recent weeks. You won’t read a word about ‘sacking’ from me, and patience has to be granted – United will do well to avoid the childish merry-go-round that happens at other clubs. There is no point being called ‘supporters’ if we can’t support the team in its low moments. We’ve had so few genuinely low moments, and so many unbeatably high points in the last thirty years that this will be a new experience for many of us. That said, we can certainly expect better than what we have seen this season so far – United have been a one-man-team in attack, weak in midfield and forgiving at the back, while Mr. Moyes has been dreadful with the media and tragic in the transfer market. The thirteen-match unbeaten streak before the Everton defeat wasn’t all it was made out to be – full of draws that should’ve been wins, and some wins scarcely deserving of the name – but it was not nothing, either. Surely this team is capable of better than what we’ve seen so far this season, and – short of a genius plan in the comments section – we will have to be patient and wait for the inevitable turnaround, starting with Shakhtar at home on Tuesday.


12 Comments on Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United: Problems mount

  1. it baffled me how moyes to things,for a manager who is prolific at everton is a mess at united and he is too scared to make the required change,evra is a flatline and give RVP to heal.this is not my united anymore .

  2. This publisher is a fool suffering from d disease-INSOMNIA.U have refused to see d handwriting on d wall,& I’d refused to go with u.Solution to United’s problems:total overhauling of d team & coaches.Its now obvious that United has an average team.(2).Giggs & co should give way cos they’re aged,if they so love d club.(3).Giggs & co should stop deceiving Moyes that he can do better.I’ve said it here,that u cant appoint an underachiever to a club like United.Or has Moyes achieved anything?(4).Glazers-part of

  3. Should we not just pause for a minute?–the suggestion I heard on the radio this morning was that Ferguson bequeathed an ageing team–de Gea,Rafael,Evans,Jones,Smalling,Janujaz,Cleverley,Welbeck,Hernandes?–Keane,Keane,Powell,Henriques following through.

    The midfield weakness was highlighted three years ago–SAF needed to address it–he should have held on to Pogba–but failed to do so.

    The worries for me are that Moyes does not seem to have a clear idea of his preferred team and style of play–and that Martinez has created more expansive team at Everton than the one Moyes left behind making Moyes look limited and somewhat timid in his approach.

  4. Nicely written. It is sad to see so many ‘fans’ turn their backs so soon. It was a spineless performance, and the players do not seem to be having that desire to do well for some reason. It’s silly when people also talk about why the entire coaching staff was changed. He did offer to keep Rene for example but Rene wanted to move on. Plus if Moyes has worked with people for many years, and trusts them then i think he deserves to have them by his side. Moyes needs time. Simple. Will he win lots of things for us? Who knows, but he needs time to get it right, to get his side, to have people wanting to die on the pitch for him. Then we shall see a more passionate United.

  5. I have and always will back my (our) team through thick and thin, and as many people who follow you on Facebook will concur I have been semi-staunch defender of Moyes.

    But, firstly I would consider looking at things ‘we’ (as fans) can do better, Listening to the crowd on Saturday I could hear groans when passes were missed / whinging from fans when player X didn’t try and take on world and shoot / score.
    I would ask you that when you stand (or mostly sit) please don’t whinge when a player tries to ping that 40yrd pass in attempt to do something or try to take on 3players with a flick, applaud the attempt and not boo the failure.

    We HAVE TO acknowledge with our current squad / staff we are no more than a higher end team, we are no longer champions elect / challengers I can see us fighting for that 3/4/5 spot for next couple of years, Guys like it or not we are now in the group of teams that include Liverpool.

    I would argue that we require 5 players to consider ourselves challengers,

    The weakness in the squad is there for the world to see, I would argue (see above) that we require 5 players to be considered challengers.
    Goalkeeper, Currently we have what could soon be the world’s best goalkeeper.
    Full Backs- Rafael, now back from injury is only good news / Evra Will he / Wont he still be here post summer, I don’t know but please drop the Baines crying, Yes he is good, but good enough, I’m not sure, I would like to see us after maybe Shaw / or A N OTHER anther Evra yes please
    1 – 2 new centre backs, I don’t believe that smalling / jones are the ones to partner Evans at back , Evans is clearly our main centre back, yes both Smalling and jones are good / very good players, almost John o’shea material in that they can fill multiple spots which require it during season, but first teamers HELL NO.
    Jones for me seems a natural for the ‘mixer’ in centre midfield, but he can annoy me with the amount of times an easy pass or easy touch lets him down, we forget with him he is still young, But I would like to see him partner Carrick in middle of field (for time being)
    Midfield 1/2 new players – I would have Zaha & Adnan on wings, then depending on if we talking about jones in midfield, then A N Other to partner jones (assuming Carrick is nearing his end he is not getting younger) A player in mould of Fabregas (oh how I dreamt during summer) someone that can pick ball up in opponents half, drive forward, play nice passes in and around box area, and weigh in with 8-15 goals a year (think frank lampard of 5yrs ago)
    Forwards – This is an area were first pairing are in the top partnerships (arguably) in world, but where is our back up, I don’t see Chico of 2 years ago (does he need to leave us to return to his natural ability)_, Wellbeck, will never be a forward- If only he could control what his legs do he would be world-class, We need another, a Solskjaer, someone that Chico was 2/3 yr. ago, that knows they won’t be starting every game, but when called upon after 60-70minutes gets you goal, or gives the opposition some serious thought, At moment with Chico all I see is the opposition defence holding good line and him getting offside , this weekend when we were chasing a goal, getting caught offside is a crime, returns ball to opposition breaks up play

    Apologies about wall of text, but this is my opinion on the current state of play.

    I will end with this.

    Fans that cannot follow us for the next 2/3 years of malaise / under-achievement I leave you with these words

    “Turn left at the door, follow signs for Etihad for your glory hunting needs”

    Let’s not lie, we are in shit and a few years in wilderness is all I can see 🙁 But follow the boys I will

  6. At least, play players in their positions, look to play men in their mid to late 20’s, fit, competitive with fighting spirit for 90 minutes, buy at least 3 world class players in January, put some more of the kids we have invested in into the squad, this includes the keanes and Powell, take it from there so v Newcastle we might have looked like;
    DDG, Raph, Smalling, Evans, Fabio, Anderson, Cleverly, Valencia, Welbeck, Hernandez, Janusaj
    I’d be looking at keeping RVP, Rooney, Carrick to go into that team, which isn’t good enough
    Seriously looking at the Keanes, Powell to play as well,
    Spending whatever it takes for world class centre half, centre midfield, centre forward.
    Take it from there..

  7. honestly this fucking blog is losing the plot together with fergie and his fucking puppet moyes… thats the point to keep him in the job if moyes is ; ABSOLUTELY CLUELESS, DONT HAVE ANY PHILOSOPHY OR FOOTBALL STYLE, HAVE WON NOTHING , ACHIEVED NOTHING WITH EVERTON (look that doing martinez now), AND FINALLY HE DONT HAVE PLAYERS RESPECT AND HE IS A LOSER. thanks to fergie for this situation we are in..

  8. and to be honest these so called “real fans” who want to give more time to a clueless loser are real problem of united,, brainwahed clueless people understand fuck all about football just listeting to every word that fucking cunt fergie says..fergie dont give a fuck about united any more all he thinks just himself ..

  9. Have to give Moyes time..bit of a worry that he thinks that Nani and Anderson can play at this level…need 5 in midfield..would like to see Januzaj in centre midfield as teams are pressing us high up the pitch and we need players that are comfortable on the ball…not Jones(centre half)

  10. Finally, FINALLY I get abused by ‘Minimal’ in the comments to one of my posts! I feel like the last two years of hard work have just paid off. Thanks so much Minimal, it really means a lot.

  11. After yesterday’s CL match, it was blindingly obvious that both Rio/Giggs are past-it (yeah, I know, Giggs was terrific against Leverkusen in Germany but both of these guys are running on fumes and, like the old saying, one swallow does not make a summer). Nani, Valencia, and especially AshleyBloodyYoung aren’t good enough to play a 4-4-2. ButtNuts and FatBoyAndo are good enough, period. Finally, for the negatives, having been a big supporter of KagawaBunga, I’m not sure that he is a good fit for UTD – same thing as Dimmy and (before him) J-S Veron: terrific players but square pegs in round holes with TheLads.

    Now, something positive – moving TheWayneBoy into “midfield” along with YoungTom and MrJones gave the team some solidity. That was abetted by playing RVP up-top. AdnanJ looks like the real deal.

    Something hopeful – getting RVP into something approaching match-fitness is a big bonus; getting MC16 back to partner TheWayneBoy/MrJones will give the “midfield” a great deal more solidity.

    I deliberately italicized “midfield” in the previous sentence because that’s where TheWayneBoy should be stationed – at the base of an attacking diamond (or just in front of a pair of holding and box-to-box partners). Rooney is best when he’s given freedom – in part because he’s a baller but in part because he’s not disciplined and will roam around looking for the ball, regardless of what’s he’s been instructed to do by the manager (this was, I believe, the key to his problems with SAF – and SAF’s impatience with him !). Nevertheless, TheWayneBoy brings a lot to the team – while he doesn’t have the greatest first-touch he largely compensates for that with his drive and incredible intuition. In that sense, he’s a “real UTD player” and I’d be willing to try and build the team around him with the proviso that he’s not #9 or #10 – but #8, playing in the kind of linking role that’s foreign to a 4-4-2 but key to a 4-3-3 (or some variation of a wing=less formation).

    Being a glass-half-full kinda guy, I thought that this team could get 85 points; however, all the problems – really a clusterfuck of quiet surprising magnitude – would suggest that 75 points is now more likely. Hopefully, that will be enough for a CL spot. And, hopefully, the manager has seen enough of some of these incumbents to know that Rio/Giggs/Young/Anderson/ButtNuts should all be pink-slipped.

    Why Moyes bought Fellaini and not Ross Barkley is an ongoing puzzle. TheBigFella seems lost while Barkley is looking to be as good in his regular role at Everton as AdnanJ hss in his few appearances for TheLads. Having spent so much money on Fellaini, I’d be unwilling to sanction the purchase of Leighton Baines – Patrice Evra is NOT the source of UTD’s problems and buying Baines would be another misallocation of transfer funds. In that regard, I’d GO BIG for Ilkay Gundogan – even if it means using ShinjiSan as a make-weight.

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