With such a consistently impressive start to the season, Newcastle United were sure to make strong opposition against Manchester United at Old Trafford. With Wayne Rooney returning to the side, Ashley Young and Nani featuring on the wings and Hernandez also up front, it looked a strong set up going into the game.
The match turned out to be a pulsating affair, with both goalkeepers displaying superb reaction saves, with Krul in particular proving to be his side’s hero. The first half failed to produce any goals but was not without it’s highlights. Newcastle were probably lucky to go into half time on level terms, with Ryan Giggs deft flick on producing a fine fingertip save as well as saving from Hernandez, although the visitors were not without their fair share of attacking moments with former United winger Obertan producing a threat down United’s left. Early in the second half, the deadlock was broken as Wayne Rooney’s free kick near the edge of the box led to a scrap in the area that led to an intended clearance ricocheting off Hernandez’s chest, a case of right place right time. Controversy soon followed as a fine tackle from Rio Ferdinand that was adjudged by all except the linesman to be a corner kick, was soon given as a penalty. The resulting spot kick was easily put away by Ba. However, late into the second half, United sensed the chance to push further forward as Newcastle were reduced to 10 men after Gutierrez was shown a second yellow card. As United piled forward in search of a winner, Newcastle held on with Krul producing yet more heroics to deny Vidic’s header and Evra’s shot from distance.
Ashley Young was denied by the post and Hernandez was denied a late late winner when his goal was judged to be offside, although replays showed how close a call it was. 1-1 the final score, and potentially yet more distance between themselves and the league leaders. On a day where poor decisions and a fine goalkeeping performance had large influence, it could be said it was “one of those days” where the chances to win simply would not produce. With that here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) The penalty decision was appalling
Regardless of any sentiments others hold regarding decisions at Old Trafford, as some have used for justification for the penalty given against Ferdinand, one has to simply admit that the assistant referee just got it totally wrong on Saturday. It was clear for all, clearly it would seem, including the referee who even awarded a corner before his assistant intervened. Considering the referee was closer to the action, he surely was in a better position to tell that the tackle that occurred was a fine one. Not only that, but it should have been clear to the assistant that the direction of travel the ball took after the tackle had been made was surely indicative of the fact that Ferdinand got all of the ball in the challenge he made. A truly awful decision on what was a poorly officiated game.
2) Evra at left back, relied upon too heavily?
This point has been made on a few occasions this season, regarding Evra’s lack of form at times, but after the game against Newcastle it may be worth bringing up. Perhaps as the club’s only true left back, there has been too much reliance on him every game to produce. Perhaps he is overworked and in need of reinforcement in that position to allow him greater recovery between games. I mention this because there were times when Obertan, admittedly high on confidence right now, exploited Evra on a number of occasions, able to get passed with relative ease to set up attacks. This is not an isolated showing and perhaps is a position that Sir Alex Ferguson may look to bolster in the future.
3) The goalkeepers – both displays of fine shot-stopping
Saturday afternoon was a game where both goalkeepers held influence over the final result, in particular Newcastle’s Krul, who certainly had a strong say in keeping his side on level terms and in the match, both before and after the sending off. David De Gea was also tested, with a superb reflex to tip over in the second half from a volley.
4) Nani and Young – quiet prior to the sending off
As part of United’s dip in form of late,with Ashley Young out injured has been the lacklustre performances of Nani recently. Although still providing some influence on United’s attack, it seems as though he has lost some of the effectiveness that made him such a danger last season in producing so many assists. At times he has appeared a little more wasteful, and although against Newcastle was threatening at times, producing a couple of excellent passes, one must admit he has not quite got the form back that made him so important last term. Young too was quiet at times before being let loose and able to exploit the difference when the opposition went a man down.
5) One of those days
Sometimes after a game such as this one, where neither side played badly and United having plenty of clear chances to take all the points, it was one of those days where it simply would not go there way. Regardless of the penalty decision, United could have taken all 3 points, and were it not for a goal line clearance, the woodwork and the excellence of Krul. Newcastle themselves were resilient and held on valiantly when down to 10 men. For all that United threw at the visitors it simply would not go in and had to settle for the solitary point.