Sports are funny sometimes. When your team wins? LIMBS! you go to the bar, you spend lots of money and you get drunk. Continuing that trend as long as possible. When your team loses? You go to the bar, you spend lots of money and you get drunk. Continuing that trend as long as possible. So if anyone knows what I did on boxing day, then you know that writing this gives me a headache.
If I had to describe a feeling that I had in Newcastle’s humiliating 4-1 loss, it would be the guy at the sports bar in Las Vegas that bet big on a parlay, won the first few matches, got his hopes up in making the big money then got thrashed the rest of the day in humiliating fashion. I know it’s random, but its all I can think of.
When the starting lineups were announced on Boxing day, it was a lot of change and led to interesting discussions. The starting lineup:
Dubravka, Manquillo, Schar, Fernandez, Lejeune, Willems, S. Longstaff, M. Longstaff, Almiron, Joelinton, Gayle.
First thoughts for me was seeing the double Longstaff connection. Kinda crazy looking back though. A brother duo starting at Manchester United on Boxing day at the ages of 22 and 19. It was a difficult task for sure.
The other things I thought was, “Gayle? Ew... Why?” I think most people agree with me there. I was also happy to see Willems back.
As the match started the formation took a while to develop. It initially was 2 up front with Joelinton and Gayle, and then Almiron behind them. The Longstaff deeper than Almiron with Sean staying further back and Matty making more runs forward. Willems was left wing-back, Manquillo was right wing-back.
As we got underway, Man U had pretty much all of the ball. The tactics were initially sound. We wanted them to have it and when they pressured us, we tried to push the ball out wide and Manquillo actually was making great plays. This led to an onslaught for Man U opportunities and corners. They had three corners in a row, but nothing came from it.
Then Newcastle’s first opportunity arose. Gayle with one of the greatest misses I’ve seen this year. Joelinton (who had a great match by the way) went running down the left, had a give and go with Gayle and eventually send Gayle behind their defense, went one-on-one with De Gea and shot it over the bar. It was frustrating, and for sure should of been a goal.
But then it happened. Matty ice in his veins Longstaff! With his second goal of the season and the second goal against Manchester United. 17th minute Gayle curled a call in to Matty Longstaff and he chipped it to Joelinton who got caught up in Man United’s defense. Matty found some space, Joelinton found him, got it to him, and Matty slotted it into the left corner. GOAL 1-0 TOON!!!!!
I wish I could stop this recap now, but I can’t. So I’m going to be nice and give you the option to skip past this next part and go to the “Stats and Things” Section below this.
It wasn’t long after the euphoric goal that Man U got their equalizer. 24th minute: Luke Shaw attacked down the left, plays it into Pereira, who played it back to Martial. Martial hits a right-footed shot that curled to Dubravka. It hits BOTH of Dubravka’s hands, it deflects below him and into the net. A savable ball that proved costly.
From that moment, the momentum shifted completely in Man United’s favor. The tactics also became puzzling. We had 3 midfielders in the middle of the pitch but when looking at the field, the middle was WIDE OPEN. I wanted to emphasize that in caps because it was as open as I’ve seen a midfield this season. We were not forcing them out anymore. They were easily attacking us through the middle.
This is where we went from a weird, I guess I’ll call it a 3-4-1-2, to a 5-3-2.
Shortly after it was Mason Greenwood. 36th Minute: What was Fabian Schar thinking? He received the ball from Dubravka, and was under pressure. Schar did not pick his head up. He could of cleared the ball but instead, passes it right to Mason Greenwood, who runs up, and pummels a shot right outside the box, deflected off of Fernandez and SMASHES the top bar into the net. 2-1 Manchester United.
The NightSchar’s continued as he got a yellow card for a foul on Pereira. Then a mere minutes later 41st Minute: Wan-Bissaka crossed the ball into the box and Rashford rose over Schar to score Man U’s 3rd goal of the match. 3-1 Manchester United.
NUFC were not happy about this goal because McTominay (already on a yellow) fouled Matty Longstaff in the middle of the pitch before the cross. There is an argument to be made that McTominay should of gotten a second yellow earlier as well. He was lucky.
From this point until Halftime, Newcastle have lost their shape, their purpose, everything. When we were attacking we had too many bodies going forward which is what Manchester wanted. They were killing us on the counter because we couldn't get enough players back.
A Sean Longstaff mistake was luckily cleared away and Newcastle limped into Halftime down 3-1. Early in the half, Newcastle were dangerous, but they gave up 3 avoidable goals that put them in the position they were in. Schar, and Sean Longstaff were really struggling.
I was expecting some changes at the break but Bruce stubbornly kept everything the same. Nothing changed in the 2nd half. Man United dominated possession. Our back line was in shambles. Fernandez was giving the ball away and no one was there in support.
51st Minute: Sean Longstaff continued his struggle and massively under hit a back pass to Dubravka. Martial runs in behind Fernandez and chips Dubravka for the goal.
4-1 Manchester United.
From there, the same story remains with a few different players. In the 59th minute, down 4-1, Bruce subbed Atsu on for Gayle, which converted out formation to a 5-4-1. Almiron on the right, Atsu on the left, Longstaff’s in the middle, and Joelinton up top.
Man United didnt stop the pressure and almost scored again as Matial hits the post and NUFC made another sub.
63rd Minute: Almiron off for DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin’s role was odd. On the attack, he essentially became another forward alongside Joelinton. But when Man United had the ball he would drop back to a Winger position.
The pace of the match dropped and it became clear that both sides were fine with ending the match right there. Last sub for Newcastle.
88th Minute: Schar off for Krafth. This put 3 Right-Backs on the pitch for Newcastle. Krafth playing Right Center-Back, Yedlin playing right wing, and Manquillo playing right wing-back.
That is how it all ended. Newcastle United - 1, Manchester United 4. As the fans left the stadium and turned off their TV’s our traditions of what we do after a match like that took place. My tradition - A whiskey. That’s all I need.
Next up: Newcastle Host Everton on Saturday.
Stats and Things:
- Newcastle sit in 10th place on the table with 25 points
- Matty Longstaff is the only player since Demba Ba to score both home and away against Manchester United in the same season (2011/2012)
- Steve Bruce is now 0-1-10 as a manager against Manchester United
- The xG story tells the true tale of the match, minus Newcastle’s costly individual mistakes. Newcastle lost the xG battle 2 - 1.05. Which says, without those mistakes, we still will lose the match, but without the larger margin. A 2-1 loss would of been fair based on actual play.
- On the player front, Matty Longstaff led the xG charge with .55xG. Gayle second with .33. Joelinton led in expected assists with .90xA.
- Sunderland are still in League One
- Whoscred ranked each individual perforamce, and only one player on the Toon made a higher grade than a 7. It was Joelinton at 7.75. He was easily MOTM for Newcastle outside the Longstaff goal.
- Even though we are currently in 10th place. fivethirtyeight predicts Newcastle will finish the season in 13th place on 44 points. Below us is Southampton, Brighton, Bournemouth, West Ham, Aston Villa, Watford, Norwich.
“For half an hour, we gave as good as we’ve got, created the better openings, and then, all of a sudden, we’ve gifted them the first goal and the second one. And when you come here, you can’t make those mistakes.
”That is the biggest disappointment we all feel. You can’t make that many mistakes here. It is disappointing. The reason we have got a few results is the way we have defended. We made far too many individual errors today.
”You are never surprised about the character of Manchester United. That is the disappointment. No player wants to make the mistakes we did.
“We managed to keep it respectable, and with that, I thought they showed a bit of resilience in the last half hour. But, that fifteen minutes before half time was bizarre.
”When you come here the one thing you can’t do is gift Manchester United. I know it’s Christmas, but we gave away more goals in half an hour than we have in three months.
”I don’t think United can believe it. It’s a harsh lesson for us that you cannot make the mistakes we have just made. We stuck at it, but it was a tough afternoon for us.
”It’s a ridiculous schedule but it’s the way it is. We’ll have to get ready and prepared for Saturday which is a big game again.”