NEWCASTLE UNITED VS MANCHESTER UNITED
Newcastle away gave United an opportunity to continue their excellent away form but it also gave a brief glimmer of hope to those Sports Direct suckers for a league double over United for the first time since 1931. However, enough records have been broken this season for the wrong reasons. No more please!
In: Lindegaard, Evra, Smalling, Young, Fletcher, Hernandez, Mata and Kagawa
Out: De Gea, Buttner, Ferdinand, Vidic, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney and Welbeck.
- A much modified team, to deal with the upcoming second leg, coped well against a poor Newcastle team. Nonetheless, United did well to quash any impact the Geordies had in the early minutes.
- Mata performed superbly. Yet it is Fletcher whom must also be applauded as with Mata and Kagawa they worked the space between Coliccini, Gouffran and Gosling.
- The midfield two, Fellaini and Fletcher, were in much more control than usual as the play was in the main forward of them and Newcastle rarely played passes beyond them through the channels of the defence.
The first notable adjustment to try and bring the game to life, saw Januzaj moved centrally in a swap with Mata, as United went for a more conventional 4-4-2 from the 4-2-3-1. This was surprising because the right hand side was not exploited sufficiently in the early going and Hernandez was dropping off the high line and then going beyond, showing a great deal of movement beyond the Newcastle defensive line.
This movement didn’t happen consistently as the heat map above showed the early effectiveness of Tiote and Gosling. As the game developed the Mata and Kagawa show kicked on.
BOOM! 38 minutes in and a sumptuous free kick from Mata, following foul to stop a positive run by Fletcher, saw United take the lead. A note must be made about the poor positioning of the goalkeeper; too much of the goal was offered to the little man.
Suddenly the play became much more open and Fellaini and Fletcher took advantage of the space in front of them.
Kagawa was a joy to watch, always available and playing between the lines. He was able to confuse Coliccini with these positioning, asking questions of whether the Newcastle defender should stick or twist.
Kagawa and Fletcher involved in top passing combinations.
Newcastle changed and approached with more pressing in a 4-4-2 formation with former Inter fullback Santon pushing on.
BOOM! Not enough Pardew! Mata made it 2-0 after a sweet header from Kagawa to Hernandez who had drawn both centre backs out by creating space for Mata to finish calmly.
Then reformed bully Pardew pulled Cisse out right and put Ben Arfa on for de Jong in a 4-1-4-1 formation. This was to try and get Jones running back which can create issues for the defender.
BOOM! Not this time. 3-0 after a great ball from Kagawa to Hernandez to slot home easily. Tiote was at fault here as he was guilty of not tracking back. It also made plain the pattern of Hernandez moving out to the right.
A nod should be given to Fellaini who certainly played better than previous games and his passing improved (36 out of 40 successful passes) but it’s still surprising how easy it seems to get the ball off him.
The game got easier as Newcastle lost their shape with the space between the midfield and centre backs becoming wider as the game wore on.
BOOM! To wrap things up at 4-0, the quiet player of the game Januzaj scored after a delicious back heel from Mata.
This was the type of victory we took for granted under Sir Alex. Yet, Moyes’ statement that this was a “perfect performance”, could give an indication to how he may want the reds to play, going forward. This is perhaps one of the main gripes fans have is that it has been difficult to deduce what the playing style now is; not here.
There’s creativity and positioning when Kagawa and Mata play together which is fantastic to watch, particularly off the ball, and it makes the most of both their talents. Kagawa is showing great energy and is supporting the team offensively and defensively.
The statement from Mata summed up our thoughts perfectly, “It’s a pleasure to play with Shinji Kagawa, we connect very well”. Let’s hope it continues.