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Five things we’ve learnt from Newcastle vs United

Newcastle-v-Manchester-UnitedManchester United scored three goals for the first time since 17 October but returned from Newcastle with just one point after conceding a late equaliser.

Having gone two up within 40 minutes, United surrendered their lead yet again before a Wayne Rooney wondergoal fuelled hopes of a second consecutive league win, only for Paul Dummett’s superb strike to deny them three points.

Here’s five things we’ve learnt from last night.

1) Is Rooney back?

Against Chelsea, in his first game since being dropped for the trip to Stoke on Boxing Day, Wayne Rooney looked a player completely bereft of confidence and form, as he justified Louis Van Gaal’s decision to leave him out of the starting XI at the Britannia.

Since then, however, the Manchester United captain has scored in three consecutive games and while he still looks a paltry imitation of his former self, his contribution has somewhat improved.

Rooney’s assist for Lingard’s goal and his wonderful finish to give United short-lived 3-2 lead was a reminder that the 30-year-old can still offer more than just a reliable option from the penalty spot.

The question is: Was this one a nostalgic look to the player he once was or another step towards regaining form? Sunday’s trip to Anfield, a venue where he’s seldom performed, could clarify a few doubts.


2) Fellaini is the villain again

In Louis Van Gaal’s first season, Marouane Fellaini was arguably one of the success stories at Manchester United, as the Belgian international went from being pantomime villain to be an important member of the starting XI.

This season, however, the former Everton man looks like the player that epitomised David Moyes’ failures during the Scotsman’s nine-month spell at Old Trafford. Cumbersome without the ball and guilty of giving away possession too easily, Fellaini was responsible for Newcastle’s first goal after losing the ball in midfield and then cushioning it into the path of Georginio Wijnaldum.Newcastle-v-Manchester-United (2)

More worryingly, the Belgian offered absolutely no threat in the air, a speciality which is supposedly his forte, and was lucky to get himself sent off for a number of completely unnecessary challenges and United paid his miss late in the second half very dearly.

Van Gaal’s options might have been limited by injuries to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick, but deploying Fellaini as central midfielder, particularly in this kind of form, is a recipe for disaster.

3) Lack of leadership all too evident

For all the criticism aimed at Van Gaal’s style of football and his tactical choices, even when they play reasonably well United are hampered by a severe lack of leadership, which means they can never navigate through difficult moments unscathed.

Having conceded a goal just before halftime, United needlessly gave away a penalty in the second 45 minutes and looked on the ropes for a brief spell after Newcastle’s equaliser, as the sat back too deep and invited pressure.

Newcastle-v-Manchester-United (1)


Rooney’s goal should have given United all three points but, again, they could not defend a lead. Away from entertaining football, the difference between great teams and mediocre sides boils to the ability of closing games down.

4) United left rueing their missed chances

Not only does this United side lack leadership, it also lacks the killer instinct that would turn draws into wins, which was abundantly highlighted by two costly misses.

Jesse Lingard squandered a glorious chance to make it 3-1 as he blazed over from close range, while Fellaini could only head straight at the keeper from point blank range soon after Rooney had put United back in front.

Had either chance gone in, United would have walked away from St James’ Park with three points. Instead, they were punished by Newcastle in both instances and succeeded in the difficult feat of making a team that will probably be involved into a relegation scrap look like a decent side.

5) Van Gaal can’t get a balanced side

Van Gaal’s philosophy has delivered mind-numbingly dire football this season but, at least in the first half of the campaign, it also yielded results and some sort of defensive stability.

Unfortunately, however, results and defensive stability have gone out of the window when the shackles have been even slightly released, which has in turn led to horror shows like in the games against Wolfsburg and Newcastle.

Newcastle-v-Manchester-United (3)

Entertaining though they might be, both games saw United surrendered crucial leads as their back four plunged in utter chaos.

They have, of course, been here before over the last 18 months – Leicester away last season being a perfect case in point – but it doesn’t make it any less infuriating and it is absurd that such an expensive side could only function at one end of the pitch.




  1. storm

    13 January 2016 at 07:16

    It just goes to show how far Utd have sunk when a win against Swansea and a draw against Newcastle, both in the bottom four, is seen as Utd possibly starting to turn their season around. Despite the media claiming assorted Mark Robins moments for van Gaal, Utd look a million miles away and that won’t change until van Gaal has gone.

  2. Karl

    15 January 2016 at 16:43

    As I said before, the reason our defense was good was because of our boring coward play where the entire team “defend”. A new coach will NOT have a good defensive foundation to work from if he wants to play somewhat entertaining. The ENTIRE team and philosophy will need to be changed. I therefore cannot understand the United board’s reluctance to give LVG his packing orders sooner rather than later. Let alone giving him more money to waste on the team. Its all going to be in vain.
    At the rate thing are going now, we will have spent close to £1bn before we start playing with any sort of style. What a waste!!!

  3. colver

    16 January 2016 at 04:00

    Our season fell apart because of injuries. Our defence was solid and keeping us in the title race until we had our annual injury crisis and started having to field makeshift backlines and rushing players back from injury and then the momentum of back to back defeats took over.

    Despite all the player investment our squad is paper thin and deeply lacking in quality. What use is Rojo? He never plays. Similarly Jones is practically part time. We sold Evans without buying a replacement. Valencia got injured. Shaw got injured. We sold Rafael-a battle-hardened Premier league defender and brought in Darmian who may be promising but is finding it very difficult to adapt to the pace of the Premier League.

    This was billed as the summer we fixed our midfield. But Carrick seems to be finished. Schweisteneger is pedestrian. And Fellaini in midfield is just suicidal while Schneiderlin has been effective but underwhelming.

    We are woefully short on quality out wide. Mata is not and never will be a right winger. And he’s been pretty useless as a number 10 as well. Depay has been useless and is only just starting to show a bit of promise as a super sub. Young is still our best winger but LVG doesn’t seem to realize that. Lingard has been hyped but like Young last season he only looks good because everyone else has been so bad.

    And upfront Rooney’s woes are well documented and while Martial is promising he doesn’t have the hunger of a prolific goalscorer and would really benefit from playing with better players. And of course we sold Hernandez and he is scoring goals like crazy.

    The real problem with LVG is simply that he’s invested his funds badly taking flyers on expensive youngsters like Rojo, Darmian, Depay and Martial when we needed proven quality. You can make a strong case he’s actually overachieved with the resources at his disposal especially considering how poor Rooney’s been and how Carrick-probably our best player last season after De Gea-has become a fringe player.

    A new boss with a more attacking approach would score more goals AND concede more goals. Unless he can improve the squad we wouldn’t do that much better. There is no guarantee he’d invest the money any better than LVG has. Mourinho for example has a very average record in the transfer market. Guardiola has always had his pick of players. Giggs is totally unproven in the transfer market.

    Anyway to save our season we need to sign an experienced centre back and a more dynamic central midfielder. The former would make our defence more solid and allow us to play with only one defensive midfielder which would allow the other central midfielder to link midfield and attack. If LVG fails to realize this or arrogantly buys youngsters rather than the experience we need he’ll deservedly lose his job and probably well before the end of the season.

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