Manchester United lost their second consecutive match away from home to a Newcastle United side on Sunday afternoon. The Magpies triumphed 1-0 with Matt Ritchie scoring the only goal midway through the second half, making sure United would trail Manchester City by sixteen points going into a two-week break from Premier League.
Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and Martin Dubravka all shined on Sunday, putting all of United’s failings to light once again, as Jose Mourinho’s team struggled to get past the Czech goalkeeper. Here are our thoughts from the loss at St James’ Park.
Jose Mourinho Is Not Like His Old Self
It was something many people were talking about in recent months, but with losses against Tottenham and now Newcastle we can confirm – Jose Mourinho is not his old self. The Portuguese manager did well to improve this Manchester United side, but his failings are far more obvious. The team does not look like they know how they are supposed to play going forwards.
No real plan seems to be put in place and that is obvious from team’s displays. Everything looks to be decided on individual moves, whether they go right or wrong. Alexis Sanchez’s big miss did hurt, but that was not even the best chance of the match. Mourinho’s attacking setup looks unimaginative and that must change.
Paul Pogba Substituted Early Once Again
This was second consecutive away match Mourinho substituted Pogba early into the second half, when the team was in losing position. That happened against Tottenham and was now repeated against Newcastle. After the game, Mourinho said to the media “there was nothing wrong with Pogba”. What he probably meant was that he did not fall out with the Frenchmen, yet those words could be interpreted differently.
There were many things wrong with Pogba against Tottenham and again against Newcastle. Pogba wandered throughout the pitch once more without making any real difference to how United played. He recovered one ball during his 66 minutes on the pitch and failed to make a single shot towards the goal or a key pass. Lacking influence.
Manchester United Defence Looks Limited
Manchester United started the match with a back four consisting of Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young. Two of them are naturally wingers, while Valencia can come through as a full-back. The two centre-backs have been looking poor for some time now and it was Smalling once again who could have – and should have – done better prior to Ritchie’s goal.
United did miss some players in that back four, but overall, they must invest heavily next summer in order to make this defence less error-prone. Bringing Victor Lindelof last summer from this perspective looks like far from enough and Smalling will have a hard time keeping his place in the squad this July.
Dubravka’s Stunning Debut
Newcastle’s goalkeeper made a debut against Manchester United and fully shined. He made couple of crucial saves, keeping his team in the game. His three saves were very good ones and Rafael Benitez might be getting himself a goalkeeper he wanted all this time.