CHRIS WHEELER: Manchester United look like a pub team after a night out… too many bad eggs, too many bad attitudes and too many lazy players in their defeat against Newcastle
- Manchester United’s struggles were again laid bare by Newcastle on Saturday
- All is not well in the United camp and their poor performance was damning
- We expected perfection from VAR – we haven’t got it: Listen to It’s All Kicking Off
The press box in the Milburn Stand is so low behind the dugouts at St James’ Park that you’re practically sat on the bench.
On a freezing night on Tyneside, it offered a fascinating window into the world of Erik ten Hag and his players as they were overrun by a quite stupendous Newcastle side.
You could clearly see the pained expression on Ten Hag’s face as he wandered back and forth from the touchline shaking his head.
There was a furious exchange with Anthony Martial after the Frenchman failed to track back at the end of the first half, and a frosty handshake between the two men when Martial was substituted after the hour mark.
Marcus Rashford wore a miserable expression as he followed Martial off the pitch, casting aside his gloves before he sat down muttering to Sergio Reguilon.
Man United struggled against Newcastle as they again underperformed away from home
You could clearly see the pained expression on Erik ten Hag’s face as he wandered back and forth from the touchline shaking his head at St James’ Park
However, there are some things you don’t need to see at close quarters to realise all is not well in the United camp, especially if you are a seasoned pro, and the verdict on United’s lamentable performance here was damning.
‘For me, there are too many bad eggs in that Manchester United team, too many bad attitudes,’ Alan Shearer said on BBC’s Match of the Day.
Jermaine Jenas added on TNT Sports: ‘The body language of a team tells you a lot at times, and there were a few of them that were sending a message to the manager.’
‘Rubbish,’ was Paul Scholes’s opinion for Premier League Productions. ‘There are too many lazy players.’
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used to tell his back-room staff that ‘this lot are going to get me sacked’ and in the end they did. Many of those players remain at United.
Ten Hag continues to defend his players in public but he is in danger of getting dragged back into crisis, with Chelsea up next on Wednesday.
Marcus Rashford wore a miserable expression as he followed Martial off the pitch at Newcastle
Defeat in Newcastle showed all is not well in the Manchester United camp after recent woes
Some context here. United have won five of their last seven games in the Premier League, and Ten Hag has been nominated for November’s manager of the month award.
Statistically, they were the form team coming into this game. That’s the problem with statistics though. Four of those five wins were by barely-merited one-goal margins against Brentford, Sheffield United, Fulham and Luton.
Statistically, as Ten Hag pointed out on Friday, Andre Onana is the second-best goalkeeper in the top flight. At least the Cameroonian avoided any more costly errors here, three days after he came under fire for his performance against Galatasaray, and on a night when the Newcastle fans were never off his back.
Some more context. This was United’s third tough away game in a week after the win at Everton and midweek draw in Istanbul as they continue to struggle with injuries. Their preparations were also disrupted when the team flight to Tyneside was cancelled and they had to travel by bus.
It wasn’t any easier for Newcastle, though. This was their third game in a week too, including a handsome victory over Chelsea and a painfully unfair draw at Paris Saint-Germain.
This was United’s third tough away game in a week after the win at Everton and Istanbul draw
Statistically, Ten Hag pointed out Andre Onana is the second-best goalkeeper in the top flight
They are one of the few clubs with a longer injury list than United this season, and goalkeeper Nick Pope added to it here when he dislocated his shoulder. Eddie Howe played the same team in all three games, yet he got a performance brimming with such energy from his players that it put United to shame for the second time this season. Newcastle overtook Ten Hag’s side in the Premier League table a month after knocking the holders out of the Carabao Cup.
They were severely depleted that night, too. But whichever players Howe selects, Newcastle look slick and well-coached. They play with positivity and responsibility. United looked like a Sunday League pub team after a night out on the Quayside. Anthony Gordon scored the only goal in the 55th minute but there should have been more.
It feels as though Newcastle’s players would walk through fire for their manager. United? Well, Martial and Rashford weren’t the only sinners, even though they were the worst. The players owe their manager a performance.
With Sir Jim Ratcliffe set to pitch up at Old Trafford any day now, this would not be a good moment to leave Ten Hag high and dry.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
NEWCASTLE (4-3-3): Pope 6.5 (Dubravka 87min); Trippier 8.5, Lascelles 7, Schar 7.5, Livramento 7.5; Miley 7.5, Guimaraes 7.5, Joelinton 8; Almiron 7, Isak 7, Gordon 8 (Ritchie 90). Scorer: Gordon 55.
Booked: Joelinton. Manager: Eddie Howe 8.
MAN UTD (4-2-3-1): Onana 6.5; Wan-Bissaka 6 (Reguilon 80), Maguire 6, Shaw 7, Dalot 6; Mainoo 5 (Amrabat 80), McTominay 6; Rashford 4 (Antony 62, 6), Fernandes 6.5, Garnacho 6; Martial 4 (Hojlund 62, 6).
Booked: Maguire, Antony.
Manager: Erik ten Hag 5.
Referee: Robert Jones 7.
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