Newcastle 0 Man United 1: Four talking points

Joel Durston analyses Manchester United's dramatic 1-0 victory at Newcastle on Wednesday night

Man United lacking magic

For all the early-season criticism of United as top-heavy – full of flair up front but dodgy at the back – they have actually been strangely ordinary since about October, their 47 goals for and 26 against pretty typical for their league standing (fourth). Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria, the two headline signings who most contributed to the aforementioned image, have flattered to deceive, as have other attacking options as Louis Van Gaal tries out various systems, while the defence has gradually found some confidence and cohesion (and fitness). Granted, they got the win here in the end, but the goal came not really as a result of Manchester United banging on the proverbial door, nor even from just one neat move, but instead from some dreadful defending from Newcastle…

A Krul twist of fate

Tim Krul, up until up until the 89th minute, had had a fine game, notably making a superb double save in which he acrobatic denied Marouane Fellaini, then scrambled across his box to make himself big – nay, huge – to stop Ashley Young’s shot; ability Van Gaal would have known only too well having tactically subbed him in to win the penalty shootout against Costa Rica in the World Cup. But late on, with Wayne Rooney, harassing the Newcastle backline, Mehdi Abeid played a short backpass to Krul. The Dutchman got the ball a bit stuck under his feet and, with Rooney again pressuring, only found with his clearance Ashley Young, who calmly controlled and slotted into an open corner of the goal from about ten yards out. Abeid was nearly as much to blame for Krul, for giving the keeper a hospital pass instead of just clearing it, but if Krul got any height at all on his clearance, it would have at least made a United player’s job a lot harder, if not completely cleared them. A rare blot on the copybook for the Newcastle keeper.

No let up for the officials

Any referees wishing for a bit of a let up after all their recent scrutiny, not least from a certain Portuguese, will be disappointed. (In fact, the idea of video refereeing might help them, but it’s not going to come in soon enough to spare them immediate criticism). Emmanuel Riviere was denied a clear penalty when Chris Smalling tripped him. Anthony Taylor’s view was at least partially obscured by another United player, but he could be faulted for that. There were some very tight offside calls on Rooney (one of which he scored from), an unsavoury spitting incident between Jimmy Evans and Papiss Cisse which the authorities might get involved with, and John Carver was even complaining about the incorrect awarding of a throw-in which led to the United goal. Replays reveal the Newcastle manager is correct, but it was a marginal decision and there was so much that happened in between that in goal that it smacks of sour grapes (the unawarded penalty claim would be a much more legitimate grievance).

Cancer is no match for Gutierrez!

And finally, a moment to put all the above in stark perspective – Jonas Gutierrez made his first appearance in 17 months for Newcastle, from the bench, after having contracted testicular cancer (which subsequently spread to other parts of his body). The Argentine had been told by Newcastle, one would hope with honesty and his best interests at heart, to find a new club. So to not only beat cancer but to be out there in a Premiership football game, speaks volumes about his character. Not only that, he also had a decent half-hour by any measure (I don’t know that anyone would criticise him if he wasn’t any good) – tracking back to make a great slide tackle on Adnan Januzaj and beating three United players to nearly create something late on.

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