Manchester United traveled to St. James’ Park looking to build momentum from their domination of Huddersfield a week ago with a massive match against Chelsea upcoming.
Newcastle United, having seen themselves drop into the bottom three earlier in the day, were looking to bounce back from back to back disappointing draws and end their eight-game winless run at home.
Newcastle United – 4411 – Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Diame, Shelvey, Ritchie, Perez (Hayden 90’+), Kenedy (Atsu 84’), Gayle (Joselu 80’)
Manchester United – 4231 – De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Young, Pogba (Carrick 66’), Matic (McTominay 77’), Sanchez, Lingard (Mata 66’), Martial, LukakuEmbed from Getty Images
Right from kickoff, Newcastle United were on the front foot and Manchester United were looking flat and uninspired. The crowd were behind the players and they seemed to be winning every challenge. After some neat build up play on the left wing, Smalling handled the ball and gave Newcastle a free kick right on the edge of the box. Gayle’s effort ricocheted conveniently into Shelvey’s path and forced an outstanding save from De Gea. Despite their defensive setup, Newcastle showed great attacking belief, with five efforts towards goal in the opening fifteen minutes. Shelvey and Diame were by far the superior midfield partnership with Pogba and Matic looking off the pace.
Nearly a quarter of the way through, debutant Martin Dubravka, on loan from Sparta Prague, was finally tested with a low stop from Lingard’s strike after a swift Manchester United counter. Newcastle continued to win all the right battles but a penetrating through ball from Matic played Martial in one on one and Dubravka stood tall to produce a fine stop of the best chance of the game. Nonetheless the visitors continue their lacklustre efforts and allowed Newcastle ample space in dangerous positions. As a result, Gayle got brought down in the corner of the box by Smalling and Newcastle were very unlucky to not be awarded a penalty. Craig Pawson seemed to be in a good position but play continued uneventfully until the end of the half.Embed from Getty Images
Mourinho will have had a few choice words for his players after that half but the game remained 0-0 with everything to play for. Manchester United came out strong but Newcastle were equally up to the task, continuing their domination of 50/50 challenges. Lukaku finally got the ball in the net for Manchester United but the goal was disallowed with arguably two different fouls in the buildup. Smalling climbed for Valencia’s lofted ball and Lukaku made a clear push to create space. Manchester United continued to press with some brilliant individual play by Sanchez but he hit the side netting. After recovering possession in Newcastle’s half, Lukaku played in a neat ball in behind to Alexis that Yedlin tackles past an oncoming Dubravka, giving Alexis the open goal but after some hesitation his effort is blocked brilliantly by a covering Lejeune.
Despite a bright start, Manchester United remained sloppy in midfield. Smalling then conceded a free kick in a promising position with an embarrassing dive after dribbling the ball out of the back. Newcastle were quick to set up while Manchester United were all over the place. Shelvey’s lofted ball was won unchallenged by Dummett, whose ball into Gayle was flicked to a bombarding Ritchie who made no mistake beating De Gea to give Newcastle a deserved lead. Pogba, Smalling and even Valencia were all lethargic and the Magpies took their opportunity. Immediately Mourinho made a double change, withdrawing the poor Pogba and Lingard for Carrick and Mata.
From the restart, Young does well to create some space for himself and force the save from Dubravka. But despite another resurgence from the Red Devils, Newcastle United persevered and continued winning crucial challenges all over the pitch. Martial then wasted glorious opportunities to get back into the game, as he saw both his efforts on goal from a corner get blocked by Gayle and Yedlin respectively. For a player who is known for his ice cold demeanour, he lacked the necessary composure to finish his chances. Mourinho gave it one more roll of the dice, bringing on McTominay for Matic. The game begun to lose it’s edge with Rafa Benitez and his team tactically killing the game. However, Manchester United would get one more chance.Embed from Getty Images
A surging run by McTominay was stopped but the ball falls nicely for Mata whose drag back is flicked on goal by Carrick but once again, Dubravka is up to the task with a quick reaction save. Joselu, Atsu and Hayden all made an appearance in the last ten minutes of the game to seal a massive 3 points for Newcastle. Manchester United were outplayed in all areas of the park and deservedly lost 1-0 to Newcastle United. Rafa Benitez and all eleven of his players were on the same page tactically. They showed the necessary desire, discipline and quality to get the job done and fully deserved the result.
MOTM: The case could be made for a few of the Newcastle players to deserve man of the match, especially Jonjo Shelvey who dominated the midfield from end to end. However, there was one standout performer who introduced himself to the St. James’ Park faithful in style. Martin Dubravka was given a tough debut ask but he did not fail to deliver. His crucial saves, sharpness off the line for balls in behind and confidence coming out for crosses propelled his team to a massive victory and Tyneside to an awfully happy Sunday.
Written by Ammar Nazarali. (@FPLAmmar)