A fixture that has provided some fantastic games over the years, Newcastle United welcomed Manchester United to St James’ Park. I was obviously watching the game perfectly legally (shifty eyes).
It didn’t take long for the opening goal to come, and it was Newcastle United who took the lead inside the first few minutes. Jonjo Shelvey fed the ball to the on-rushing Emil Krafth, the Sweden international’s cross took a wicked deflection off Luke Shaw, leaving David De Gea with no chance.
Despite the early lead, Newcastle United sat deep and let Manchester United have plenty of the ball. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side continued to apply the pressure, with Marcus Rashford having two opportunities in as many minutes. Bruno Fernandes thought he’d levelled after playing a one-two with Juan Mata, before finishing impressively beyond Karl Darlow, however, Mata was in an offside position during the build up.
Manchester United finally got their equaliser through Harry Maguire, who headed home from a corner. Newcastle United were made to pay for allowing Manchester United far too much time on the ball. There was no pressure at all and Steve Bruce’s side seemed pretty happy to just go through the motions like some sort of training ground game. If only for a short period, it was nice to the Magpies somehow sitting second in the Premier League.
Newcastle United did spring into life when Allan Saint-Maximin unleashed a viscous shot from 25 yards, forcing a save from De Gea. That lease of life didn’t last long at all as Manchester United continued to see plenty of the ball. Darlow made a smart save from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross, before Jamaal Lascelles cleared the ball off the line from a deflected Rashford shot. The England international a constant threat, troubled Darlow again in the 42nd minute with a low shot from just outside the box. Darlow parried it away and Newcastle United unattractively cleared their lines.
The half time whistle blew with it all square. Bruce’s side could count themselves lucky for a rather shoddy performance not being punished further by Manchester United in the first half. This performance was well worth the whopping £15, money well spent eh?
Bruce was forced to make an early second half substitution, with Fabian Schär replacing the injured Isaac Hayden. Callum Wilson forced a fantastic save from De Gea, after brilliant work from Saint-Maximin. Manchester United responded at the other end as Fernandes teed up Fred, whose shot skewed wide.
Manchester United were awarded a soft penalty in the 55th minute as Rashford, who was already on his way down got the faintest of faintest touches by Jamal Lewis. Fernandes stepped up to take the penalt, Darlow saved brilliantly to his right and Newcastle United cleared the danger.
Newcastle United were in need of energy in midfield, though Miguel Almiron continued to watch on from the bench. Almiron gives the Magpies a different dimension, he covers every blade of grass and his energy is exactly what his side were lacking. Newcastle’s man of the match, Darlow, produced another wonderful save from Rashford in the 65th minute. The Manchester United striker was adjudged to be in an offside position, though replays showed it was a very tight decision. Shelvey responded for the hosts with a fierce shot from 20 yards, De Gea managed to push the ball away to safety.
Newcastle United were at least seeing a little more of the ball in the second half, a half still being dominated by the visitors as the game approached 70 minutes. Ryan Fraser was introduced in the 72nd minute replacing the anonymous Joelinton. Darlow looked to be struggling with a groin problem as Mark Gillespie went through his stretches in the hope of making his Premier League debut.
As the clock ticked over to 80 minutes, I was left bemused by the commentator praising Newcastle United on ”A very good performance.” I know our expectations are very low but “Very good” was stretching it somewhat. Fernandes punished the Magpies in the 85th minute after a sweeping team move, Darlow had no chance as Rashford played the ball to the Portuguese international who finished from a tight angle.
Almiron was finally introduced in the 87th minute, giving him plenty of times to influence proceedings, a full 3 minutes plus added time. Wan-Bissaka added to Newcastle United’s misery with a thunderous finish from the edge of the 6 yard box, game over against a very good Newcastle United side (sighs). It got even worse as Rashford wrapped things up in the 96th minute, the full time whistle blew seconds later. The driving rain matching the mood and performance.
Bruce’s side were second best for the majority of the game, against a Manchester United side still licking their wounds after being mauled by Tottenham a few short weeks ago. The Newcastle manager must make changes ahead of their trip to Wolves on Sunday. Fraser and Almiron should surely feature from the start. There are a lot of issues to be sorted out, this isn’t an overreaction to a 1-4 defeat, it’s a reaction to another turgid performance. Things must change and fast.