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Newcastle United Steal A Point From Old Trafford; Costs Sir Alex Ferguson Money


It was a day of milestones at Old Trafford on Saturday.  Newcastle United were playing on the exact 130th anniversary of their first ever match.  Sir Alex Ferguson was managing his 972nd match for Manchester United, tying him with Sir Matt Busby for the most all time.  Interestingly, it is likely that this match extended Sir Alex's own record of fines received for criticizing officiating*  On the day, the score ended 1-1 and Newcastle United have forced their way into the collective consciousness for another week, sitting 4th into the first week of December.

*I have no idea if this record is actually owned by Sir Alex.  

What follows is, hopefully, a reasonable reaction to the match with regard to tactics, stats and evaluation of on-field happenings.  The following are items that I will try to avoid, yet cannot guarantee their absence from this review altogether:


  • Steve McManaman's blatant Manchester Untied bias and Ian Darke's gallant attempts to call him on it while still being professional.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson's media comments selected printable comments following the match
  • The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals
Fortunately for us (or unfortunately, as the case may be...) this match is available on ESPN3 for re-viewing, and so I will do so.  I will break the match up into 10 segments (10 minutes each, then stoppage time) and see what there is to see.  

Pre-game is abbreviated, and it is probably just as well.  #MaccaHatesTheToon starts early.  Also, Toon Army in tremendous voice pre-match.

Ian Darke:  Briefly, Newcastle... how dangerous might they be here?

Steve McManman:  Not at all.

Ian Darke:  You really don't think they will be?

SM:  Nah, I feel that Manchester United will win quite comfortably, honestly.

Round 1 (0-10 minutes)

1 minute:  Nani splits Newcastle defenders at mid-field and strides unimpeded into the box only for Captain Colo to herd the ball over the endline for a corner

4:52 Rooney springs Chicharito through, but his quick shot is dealt with comfortably by Krul

6:00 Obertan starts his first-half reign of terror and has a shot blocked at the top of the 18 yard box

On the counter (it sure looked like Chicharito was offside on that one... but no matter), a lob over the top finds Chicharito who turns wide- defense recovers and a smart shot is well handled by Krul.

9:50 Obertan goes on one of his patented diagonal runs through the middle of the park, finds Cabaye who plays a brilliant through ball to Jonas on the left.  Jonas is dispossessed in the corner of the 18 yard box in the first of what would be several disappointing touches on attack for him on the day.

Round review:  Both teams created chances. . . Manchester United with the better of them.  Overall, probably a slight edge to the Devils, although notably Newcastle are fronting and closing down on the ball much more than they did at any point last week against City.

Round 2 (10-20 minutes):

10:35 Hatem Ben Arfa lobs an absolutely exquisite pass about 20 yards (with a touch of help from Evra's head) to Demba Ba just inside the box- Demba doesn't catch it all on the one-timer, but does test De Gea who really only just had it covered.  Demba might could have done a little better.  Hatem Ben Arfa could not have.  

11:46 Nice interplay between Jonas and Guthrie ends up with a nice through ball to Ba, who was just offside.  Good possession and movement in attack, though

12:41 Chicharito gets around Coloccini via a nice long ball from Giiggs and advances easily- but his cross is well over the head of Rooney.

13:40 Steven Taylor unmasks.

15:45 Instead of using Ryan Taylor on the overlap (the right move), Jonas attempts the take-on and fails, giving up possession at the 18-yard (extended) again.  Manchester United counters swiftly, but defensive shape holds for Newcastle-- Chicharito's cross is turned behind by Simpson.

18:40 Obertan latches on to the ball in the right corner following a failed clearance attempt by Evra.  A left footed cross may have been a more immediate danger, but Gaby rolls it to the right and gets a dangerous cross in which is ultimately scuffed by Ryan Taylor to De Gea.  Yeah.... watched it again, and a left footed cross would have found a wide-open Cabaye streaking in at the near post...

Round Review:  Newcastle are playing very well.  As a matter of fact, I edge this round to the Toon-- better ball control, better chances.  Manchester United might have had a prettier stretch of play to spring Chicharito for the cross, but otherwise, 10 minutes to the Mags.  Oh... and especially so when you consider the +10 Bad Ass points for Saylor unmasking.

Round 3 (20-30 minutes):

25:31: I'm going to be honest... watching it broadcast live, I didn't see much in this incident between Wayne Rooney and Fabricio Coloccini.  In replays, I have kind of changed my mind... the ball was close enough, which I guess is how it ends up called as it does, but the last kick from Rooney is squarely aimed at Colo.   Ben Arfa runs back to have a "Who can be the biggest nutter" competition and wins, getting cautioned for his trouble.

27:00: Uncalled handball on Manchester United at the top of the D, blocking attempted through ball which could have been dangerous.  I'm just going to put that one here in my pocket.

29:00: Nani puts Chicharito through, who skies his shot.

30:00: A great passing move from the Red Devils finds Fabio, who puts an inch-perfect centering ball to Ryan Giggs who plays beautifully toward the net.  World Class Save #1, Mr. Tim Krul.

Round Review:  The sides were pretty much equal in this round... not much happening on either end.  Newcastle is still keeping good defensive shape, Manchester are knocking around some pretty passes... but not much on in this time frame.

Round 4 (30-40 minutes):

33:32: Notoriously handsome (and possible James Bond substitute) Alan Pardew is displeased with someone or something on the pitch and drops an f-bomb while the sideline camera is on him.  +10 Bad Ass points.

34:30: Gaby Obertan continues a rather marauding first half, starting on one of his diagonal runs across the middle of the pitch before turning back to the right.  He may have had a through-ball option but skies a shot from outside the box.

37:00: Not to be outdone, Nani skies his own ill-advised shot off of a promising corner for ManU.  So far, this 10 minute chunk is coming out pretty even again... not much in it.  The Devils are creating some nice passing moves from time to time; the Mags are holding defensive shape, addressing the ball well and creating enough offense to keep Manchester United from the ever-advancing-40-minutes that we afforded City last week.

38:00: Obertan around Evra again (on a ball he kind of stole from Ba... but the right decision, I think.) Instead of heading to the goal once Obertan took the ball, Ba just kind of stops.  Doesn't matter anyway as Gaby's cross scuffs off the side of his foot and goes out of bounds.

39:40: Fabio gets the ball with lots of room to run - looks like Jonas got trapped upfield a bit.  Jonas, however, hauls butt back and puts the pressure on Fabio that causes a non-decision that snuffs out the attack. +5 hustle points to Jonas.

Round 5 (40-50 minutes):

Round Review:  Another 10-minute block where it is difficult to say that one team or the other is bossing the action.  At worst, this is another evens... but I would think that Newcastle just about edge this one out.  Manchester definitely have class moving forward, but the attacks that they've been getting have been of their own quality, not as a result from our errors.

41:25: Yohan Cabaye finds an EXCELLENT long ball to Obertan in the corner.  Obertan abuses Evra again, working in a cross that Vidic did really well to cut out and then sending in a return cross that Evra got a touch on to divert.... the ball is half-cleared to Cabaye who sends in a worm-burner that ultimately is dealt with comfortably by De Gea.

43:32: Obertan again gets the ball in a tremendous position.  His cross hits Evra in the arm just outside the box.  According to the Laws of the Game, that's really the right call... but I've seen the handball given before.  Like against Ryan Taylor last week.

45:00: Newcastle have their first real defensive lapse of concentration, but Chicharito ultimately loses balance and doesn't get a great shot off.  On the counter, Obertan plays a delicious left-footed (!) ball to Cabaye who has Ba with a chance to get through, but Ferdinand does well to cut the ball out.

46:12: Ben Arfa nearly finds Ba through, but his ball is too close to the defence and cut out easily.

48:00: Rather against the run of play, really, Newcastle concede a free kick just outside the box.  Rooney smashes the free kick into the wall and sends a shot back in off of the rebound.  Steven Taylor doesn't get all of the clearance, and it hits off of Chicharito and rolls into the net.  1-0 Manchester United, but honestly, it's a bit harsh on us.  McManaman is voice-breaking giddy, as he told us that Chicharito would score.  

50:00: In a rather disturbing trend, Newcastle United give up a second goal-scoring opportunity within a minute of conceding the first.  Fabio does us a favor by skying the shot, but if I were an opposing manager, I would put on about 2 minutes of all-out attack after any goal because Newcastle have looked vulnerable after the first concession.

Round Review:  Any time a goal is scored, I suppose you have to give the round to the goal-scoring team. . . but on the strength of the 10 preceding minutes, Newcastle United were really having the better of play.  The disturbing part was how Manchester United marched back down the pitch immediately and had the second chance right away.  

Round 6 (50-60 minutes):

52:51: The momentum has swung truly to the Manchester side of the spectrum. . . Simpson does really well to cut out a back-post cross and Rooney probably should have done better with his header from the resultant corner kick.


54:39: Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba.  With time, this has the potential to be special.  At this time, they're not always on the same page.  On this occasion, Hatem is thinking one idea and plays a chip over the top of the defense.  Demba had a different thought and gesticulates wildly at HBA's choice of ball.  

55:00: Manchester United open up the Newcastle right (Danny Simpson tries a sliding cut-out that takes him out of the play)... the rest of the Newcastle defense cope relatively well, but Ashley Young gets a free shot that he really should have buried.  +10 luck points.

57:40: The run of play is definitely with Manchester United.  They're attacking freely at this point.  Ashley Young's cross is collected easily by Krul, but frankly Young should have done better.

59:00: Newcastle earn a corner and execute brilliantly.  A short corner to Jonas is crossed in to the back post, where Steven Taylor nods back to Captain Colo who absolutely catches the ball with everything he's got. . . only for De Gea to parry brilliantly.  Probably 9.9 times out of 10, that one ends up in the net.

Round Review: This is honestly the first 10-minute chunk that either team truly dominated.  The Red Devils moved the ball comfortably and found a couple of very real openings.  Had the finishing been a little better, this match could have turned drastically in this time frame, but all credit to the Newcastle defense, they kept the danger mostly at bay.  Notably, this chunk of time was not decided by Tim Krul- so on a team level,  it can be deduced that Newcastle are still hanging in there.

Round 7 (60-70 minutes):

61:21: A time stamp that will live in infamy.  Watching it on the live broadcast, I never thought we would get a penalty here.  Whatever reason the linesman had, he made a compelling enough case that the referee gave it, though.  Ferdinand did get the ball.  He did clean Ben Arfa out.  I don't think that I would have given it.  Manchester United are indignant as penalties don't get called on ManU at Old Trafford.  Regardless, it was called, and Demba Ba slots the penalty home cooly.  1-1 for the good guys.

67:01: Positive reaction overall from the Mags, as you'd expect.  Even leading into the penalty decision, they had calmed themselves down and were not getting pushed around as badly as they had been.  Sameobi has been introduced for Obertan (who was nearly invisible in the second half...), Jonas and Guthrie both carded.  Krul does well to collect the cross from the Guthrie challenge free kick.

68:50: Rooney gets a little bit of space, but there wasn't much there for the shot.  By and large, the Mags have had the better of this section of play so far.

Round Review: I was fully prepared to go back on what I said earlier about the whole goal-scoring thing and give this section to Manchester United. . . but really, they didn't seem to have any play-related reaction to the penalty.  Newcastle held the ball and closed down most of the attacking moves pretty easily.  

Round 8 (70-80 minutes):

71:45: Nani does well to create a little space and fires a rocket that Steven Taylor puts his un-masked face in front of bravely.  +10 Bad Ass points.

72:33: Nemanja Vidic channels his inner linebacker and annihilates Demba Ba.  Manchester United fans react classily by booing when play is stopped for Ba to be removed from the pitch using a stick and a shovel. 

73:30: Newcastle have really played in an extremely positive manner for the entire match, attacking effectively and not bunkering in, even for the time following the penalty.  This moment defines the first shift away from this philosophy, as James Perch is introduced for Danny Guthrie.  Regardless what happened from this point out, it was pretty clear that AP was hoping to bunker down and get the point.

74:48: James Perch, through-ball master.  That is all.

75:45: Wayne Rooney has clearly not ever heard that "the referee is part of the pitch".  He gets scrubbed off of Jonas and a 50/50 ball by the ref, and responds with a shove on Jonas that was full-value for the yellow card he received easily.

76:20: Yohan Cabaye provides perhaps the only defensive clunker of the match, completely failing to cut out a ball in the box on a Manchester United counter.  The finishing is again poor (but under pressure) and Newcastle emerge unscathed.

77:00: Jonas tries to save a ball in bounds and ends up stretching as though he is cramping.  He really looks exhausted.  Newcastle still have a sub left, and one has to wonder why exactly Pardew did not make this change.  In all fairness, Jonas had a relatively poor game overall anyway.  Seconds later, Jonas lunges in with a two-footed tackle and deservedly gets sent off.

79:00: Tim Krul produces his second world-class save of the match off of the resulting free kick, blocking a bullet header from Vidic.

Round Review:  On the quality of play, this is another even round.  Although the red to Jonas is going to influence the last chunk of the match, there really is not much at all between the squads in this chunk at all.  Even with the Perch change, the play was not overwhelmingly negative from Newcastle.

Round 9 (80-90 minutes):

80:00: Lovenkrands on for HBA-- Attack attack attack chant from the home crowd.  McManaman informs us that Krul was lucky to save the Vidic header earlier.  "Anywhere else, and it's in."  Perhaps I misunderstand the idea behind goalkeeping.

83:00: Krul again saves well from a really underrated Evra strike.  Evra possesses from a half-clearance and catches with the outside of his left foot-- the ball was always curling away from Krul, who tips around the post.  McManaman believes that Krul dressed it up.  "I think that was a little one for the cameras."  Ian Darke counters on the replay with "I think you've been a little bit unkind on the goalkeeper." to which McManaman replies in incredulous tone "Do you think so?!"

85:00: Ok... +10 lucky points on this one.  Although initially, Newcastle kept defensive shape well, Ashley Young ends up alone on the left and is well found.  His strike has venom only for it to come back off the post.  We should have paid for that one.

It really isn't until this point that the offensive pressure is mounting from the Red Devils.  Alan Pardew would say after the match that he felt Newcastle were the better squad in the first half, an assertion that Sir Alex Ferguson scoffed at  mightily.  Honestly, though, it's not far (if any) off.  We're not talking Stoke tactical brilliance here, but overall the effect of our play has to have outweighed the moments of prettiness from Manchester United.  Even up to this point, I don't think that you could make any real argument other than it was a very evenly played match.

86:00: #SimmoOffTheLine - a nicely struck ball from Chicharito is postmarked for the right-middle of the goal but Simpson, having abandoned the post,  blocks brilliantly and kills the ball so that it doesn't roll in.  He would intimate after the match that video prep on Chicharito's tendencies may have helped in this particular endeavor.  There's more to Alan Pardew's prep work than we will ever know.

The hoof-it-to-relieve-pressure tactic that we saw much of last week versus City does not show up until this point.  By and large, Newcastle did extremely well to not be in awe of the Red Devils and we built up very patiently throughout most of the game.  had we done this last week versus City, there may have been a much different result.  

88:50: Macheda heads wide, although the chance was not a dangerous one.  It's essentially 11 v. 11 deep in Newcastle's end at this point, but we're holding assignments well.

90:17: Ashley Young is through again, but Steven Taylor blocks well again.  For the match, Newcastle blocked 11 shots.  11.  5 of those were from Saylor.

93:41: The final chance of the match goes in the net... but Chicharito is confirmed off-side and Newcastle United take a massive point from Old Trafford. 

There was a lot of surprise in this match when I went back and watched through.  I don't think that there is any way that you can rightfully assert that Manchester United dominated this match at all.  Frankly, the didn't even dominate as much as you would have thought they would have following Jonas' red card.  Going back and watching again, it really feels that a draw was the right result on the day.