Manchester United 0 – 1 Newcastle United
Consecutive defeats is not something we are used too.
Having seen a below par performance on Wednesday night, albeit with some encouraging moments, the pressure was on to deliver against a Newcastle side who also suffered defeat midweek. Yet again a blip in defence allowed Newcastle to capitalise and take the lead in the second half from a Cabaye goal.
The first half was mediocre at best, frustrating to watch for the majority. Whilst Januzaj and Nani were not too bad on the wings and often interchanging, Cleverley was his usual safe self. The only exception being a beautiful pass out to find Evra on the left wing, but that aside he did not opt for anything other than the safe option. The central midfield again was poor but nothing less than we had seen in other dull performances this season. Players were neither pressing forward with intent, nor were they tightly marking their man. Phil Jones was playing well in the centre of the park as he often sought to drive things forward. As for the front men, Chicharito provided some energy and liveliness as he made up for the anonymous first half performance of RVP.
The hopefuls among the United crowd would have looked for a real electric start for the second half. Some neat link up play between RVP and Chicarito saw the Mexican have his shot palmed over by Krul. The resulting corner saw first an Evra header followed by a goal mouth scramble before Newcastle managed to clear. Then came the Newcastle goal: Evra’s header ricocheted off Sissoko, who was then allowed to cross for a calm finish from Cabaye. Despite this, there was no refreshed sense of urgency from United, often seen standing still on the ball with no creativity whatsoever. The late introduction of Zaha and Anderson introduced more pace down the wing and RVP was unlucky to have a goal disallowed after a well taken freekick from Januzaj. Late efforts from Zaha and Januzaj were off target and, as the full time whistle went, Old Trafford was met by a chorus of boos as they succumbed to their second successive home defeat.
There were again reasons to worry; Cleverley’s performance was weak and one in which he again failed to live up to the signature red football kit he was wearing. Too often, he opted for a safe two yard pass and failed to show the dynamic creativity we should expect. Van Persie too was anonymous until the late stages of the second half. Often such was the standard of midfield that he was required to come deep to get the ball much out of his natural position.
Januzaj played with his usual level of flair and creativity, despite the frequent attempts of the Newcastle defence to hack him to ground. This again shows that we really can’t afford to rely on an 18 year old who is bound to encounter a poor run of form at some point. The heads dropped today and rarely looked like rising. Moyes must rally his players ahead of a key match on Tuesday as we look to top our group and avoid the European big guns in the last 16. Plenty of thought for Moyes as he looks forward to the Champions League group decider, and a trip down to Villa next weekend.