Manchester United traveled to St James' Park to face Newcastle United on Tuesday, with the game ending in a 0-0 draw. For Manchester United, the result meant that they failed to significantly extend their lead in the race for the title, while Newcastle seemed more than happy to receive a draw. The point moved the Magpies into 9th place and gave them 40 points on the season, a total that all but guarantees safety for the newly promoted side.
Follow the jump for the Reasonable Reaction Review for this match, including individual ratings.
We talk a lot about expectations here. In my mind, it's the absolute best way to evaluate a result. Different sides expect different things from games and even seasons. Arsenal, for example, is a Top 4 club that expects to contend year in and year out, and their fanbase gets very disappointed when they fail to obtain silverware. Blackpool, on the other hand, was talking about relegation from the Championship last year before they went on a run and earned themselves promotion to the Premier League, thanks to the tournament format that that league employs. A 17th place finish for them this year would absolutely be a coup for that club and their fans, while a similar finish for the Gunners would certainly have Arsene Wenger looking over his shoulder every time he went out into public. That's not to say that fans of "small" teams shouldn't ask for and expect to receive success.
Let's talk about baseball for a second. I'm a fan of the Texas Rangers, who before last year had never won a playoff series, and were the only team in Major League Baseball with that dubious distinction. They had a great season (not really that unexpected if you follow the team), beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, and exorcised their playoff demons. They went on to advance to the World Series, which is way more than any fan could have reasonably expected at the outset of the season. I was at the Ballpark in Arlington when the San Francisco Giants won the title and celebrated on "our" field, and that hurt. In the end, I was able to console myself with the fact that this team exceeded my expectations.
This line of thinking is nothing new if you've followed sports and supported a team for any length of time. Teams are judged differently for the results they achieve on a macro level based on who they are and what they hoped to accomplish at the beginning of the season. Here's the rub: As a Rangers fan, I'm going to be disappointed if they don't build on their success this season. They're no longer the team with one total playoff win to their name, so my expectations are going to change as a result. I expect progress.
Let's bring this back to Newcastle: Whenever we do those question and answer previews with upcoming opponents, we usually get asked if the team is accomplishing their goals for the season, and I always make sure to note that the only goal for the season is Survival with a capital S. Part of that is that I'm very wary of the reputation Newcastle fans have of delusion, but part of it also has to do with managing expectations. Like Blackpool, we're a newly promoted side,* so 17th will do just fine with me.
*I freely admit that I detest it when journalists use this term in a pejorative sense. Sue me.
There's a parenthetical that needs to be said here, by the way. When Jose Enrique Sanchez says that he "aspires to more," we know exactly what he means. He wants to be part of a club with loftier expectations, which is certainly understandable. I would counter by saying that this club is built to expect more and more each year, providing all the good players don't leave on account of a lack of patience.
I think the relationship between expectations and disappointment works on the micro level as well, which is why I don't feel silly for rejoicing in a 0-0 result. As much as I'd like to be disappointed that Alan Pardew shut down the attack in the waning moments and played for a draw, I'm simply not. Yes, that could have been a win, which would have been a real boost for the morale, but I don't see why the draw can't be perceived as something to build on. The real disappointment will be if this team is still praying for one point in two or three years.
Tim Krul - 8. That early save generated some momentum. Mostly solid in directing traffic and cutting out shots. Needs to improve his long distance distribution.
Danny Simpson - 6. Looked good going forward, but continued to be a liability in terms of defensive positioning.
Mike Williamson - 7. Covered well for Simpson's deficiencies; also provided quality support for Tiote further up the field. I'm starting to sour on him as a target man in the box.
Fabricio Coloccini - 8. Calm under pressure. Pardew, please do not ever move him from center back again.
Jose Enrique - 7. Actually wasn't as strong on defense as he normally is, but continued to prove himself as a quality offensive weapon.
Joey Barton - 7. Night and day in terms of his attitude from last week to this. I'm about done with him as a kick-taker, however. He seems lost without a big target to cross to.
Danny Guthrie - 8. Balanced perfectly the role of playing back on defense and up front with width on the ball. Linked effectively with almost every player.
Cheik Tiote - 8. Played his game, which is high praise indeed. Unfortunately, he gained another stupid yellow and put the team in bad situations multiple times because of his fouls.
Jonás Gutiérrez - 8. Lots of shiftiness and creativity, though he again posted a goose-egg in the cross department.
Peter Lovenkrands - 5. Missed several opportunities and showed no chemistry with any outfield players.
Shola Ameobi - 6. Also missed some chances and was manhandled in the air.
Stephen Ireland (69') - 5. Mostly invisible. Suffered from a momentary case of "trying to be a hero."
Nile Ranger (73') - 5. His pace, usually a weapon, was no problem for the Man Utd defense. Also largely inconspicuous.
Toon Army - 9. I don't care what anybody says - the bit with the fans waving money at Michael Owen was gold.