Guest post by James Robinson…
I’m willing to bet that I wasn’t alone in being pessimistic before Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off – I even promised my girlfriend that I’d stop watching the match once we were 3-0 down. But, I was wrong, and she walked home instead.
But, back to the football. Whilst Man Utd were undoubtedly extremely poor – their passing was reminiscent of a game of rugby, in that the ball never went forward – high praise must go to Newcastle’s defence, which I slated in my last piece for Newcastle Uncovered, but were absolutely faultless this week, leaving many fans wondering the same thing – “where the hell has this been the last two seasons?”
That’s an excellent question, and it remains to be seen as to whether or not the performance was a one off, but for now Colo and co can bask in their glorious…erm, draw. Still, if new signing Thauvin was an inch taller or half a yard quicker, it could’ve been a remarkable victory.
Chancel Mbemba had a shaky start against the talented Memphis Depay, but as the game went on the out of position centre-back made more successful challenges than any other player on the pitch. Furthermore, the enigma that is Steven Taylor played so well that people will be calling for him to be picked for England before his next season ending injury/bizarre red card.
But, the man of the match, and rightly so, was our excellent captain. Fabricio Coloccini rolled back the years, and kept a docile (and quite fat, according to bitter Man Utd fans on twitter) looking Wayne Rooney firmly in his pocket. The Argentine was brilliant, although Rooney didn’t offer much challenge in the air, which has proven to be the weakest area of Coloccini’s game.
Tim Krul too, deserves praise for a couple of excellent saves, although he had a quiet game overall. Massadio Haidara, too, had a solid but quiet game – no cockups, but nothing to set the world on fire either, not that he was threatened too often.
The midfield was strong too, protecting the back four well, although offering little in terms of offence. Ayoze Perez, another young player forced out of position, really stood out to me. His workrate was outstanding, constantly tracking back, and trying to make something happen going forward.
On the other hand, Gabriel Obertan struggled to make an impact – somehow managing to simultaneously be pegged back from attacking by Depay and Luke Shaw, yet his defensive work was minimal. It was unsurprising when he was subbed off for Thauvin late on.
In the middle of the park, Anita and Colback battled against the mouthful that was Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and, aside from the first 20 minutes of the match, were they were seemingly blown away by the occasion, managed to contain them fairly well – although Colback was noticeably more error-prone, giving the ball away a few times – the fact that nothing came of his errors were capitalised on is perhaps a stroke of fortune.
Further up the pitch, Gini Wjinaldum provided somewhat of an outlet for Newcastle, but Newcastle were on the ball so little that he was rarely in the game – his break near the end of the game provided probably the most exciting moment for those of a black and white persuasion, however.
A more promising cameo, however, was that of Aleksander Mitrovic, who did things no Newcastle striker has done since Andy Carroll, including physically challenging defenders and even winning headers, rattling the crossbar in the first half. It was extremely refreshing to see – if he continues like this, no doubt he’ll quickly become a fan’s favourite.
In summary, this was a draw that felt like three points – the halting of Newcastle’s abysmal away run is a weight off everyone connected to the club’s shoulders, and getting an unexpected result will boost the team’s confidence to no end. Hopefully, we can push on from here, and avoid yet another relegation scrap.