2-5-6-3. Back line Brilliance from United.
Last week, our back four was seriously at fault as Spurs cut through our defence like a hot knife through butter. This week, they turned it around and delivered a clean sheet which brought with it our first victory at St James Park since March 2009.
Amazingly, they did not just reply with a clean sheet but they also produced goals from Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra as the Red Devils took advantage of the Toon’s disorganisation at set pieces. Overall, it was an exciting display from the team as a whole who pleased Sir Alex with their play.
Following this continued implementation of a narrow, diamond system, Rafael da Silva found himself playing behind an uncomfortable Shinji Kagawa- who picked up a yellow card for a rash challenge on Ben Arfa. Without an orthodox winger in front of him, he showed greater defensive responsibility than usual and dealt well with Shane Ferguson and Jonas Gutierrez well in the first half.
However, it wasn’t until Ben Arfa switched sides till he really excelled and marshalled the tricky winger out of the game- winning all 5 of his tackles on the day. At the start of the season, I said that Rafael needed to now make the #2 spot his own and with his performances so far this season, he is well on the way to doing so.
Next to him, against a brutal strike force of Ba and Cisse, Rio Ferdinand effectively nullified their threat and helped reduce them to 1 shot on target each. After being snubbed once again by Roy Hodgson, the 33 year old once again showed him why he is quite rightly considered one of the countries finest CBs. As @DoronSalomon points out, “his fragile body is susceptible to injury [but] when fit, he remains a valuable asset for United both in his playing ability and leadership qualities” who has a wonderful chemistry with Jonny Evans (partnering him 23 times last term) and has played over 75% of United’s premier league games in 2012.
Numbered How I Like It
Scoring only his second goal for Manchester United, Jonny Evans thumped United into the lead with an excellent header. His whole performance exhumed confidence and included a classic Evansbauer moment as he set up Danny Welbeck with a classy back-heel. There was a collective gasp as he fell heavily on his knee in the second half but luckily the Northern Irishman was fit enough to continue as we repelled Newcastle’s aerial onslaught. Nonetheless, it would be typical of Ferguson to encourage Evans to exaggerate the injury as the international break arises in order to ensure his fitness for the visit of Stoke in a fortnight.
Patrice Evra has come under heavy pressure from all corners recently, including myself, and you could see how much it meant to him when he scored the second goal. Much maligned for his defensive laziness during the week, he retained his place ahead of Buttner and put in a great display. Solid in the face of some tricky opponents, he enjoyed the extra space he was afforded by the Newcastle front-line and showed a level of concentration rarely seen recently. Lets hope he can reproduce a similar performance against Arsenal and Cheslea.
Meanwhile, David de Gea had a mixed day at the office. Many thought he’d been selected on form but the fact Lindegaard pulled out of the Denmark squad night suggests otherwise. He showed the good and the bad of his game in the 5oth minute when he miraculously saved Ba’s headed effort after woefully attempting to catch Shane Ferguson’s cross. Personally, I think we need to stick with the Spaniard but it seems the uncertainty surrounding his place is forming him to unnecessarily try to impress, forcing him to come and try to collect every cross needlessly.
His performance was summed up best by Giggs-Boson who said that he is a “goalkeeper whose capriciousness in the claiming of crosses is matched only by his confidence in continuing in coming for them. Yet, no one could beat de Gea today. Not even himself, after he looked to be a laggard casualty of his own error, he made a rapid and charged recovery more suited to an episode of E.R.” Let’s be a bit more calculated next time Dave, please.