Copa Libation–Newcastle United v Manchester United
Drink: Gin and Tonic
Snack: Homemade Tacos by the wife
I knew the result of the match ahead of time as it is almost impossible in this day and age to keep a complete media blackout.
I checked the lineups before kickoff and was a little apprehensive with Falcao on the bench and Felliani in the team. Would the giraffe with a mop for a head be the 9 (ie Long Ball Louie ) or would he be the combative midfielder? As for Newcastle I was surprised that Cabella was not part of the team as he has shown some flashes of brilliance this season.
St. James Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Red Devils over recent years with lots of goals but Wednesday’s match left a little to be desired. United continued their dominance of possession but with very little end product. On the flip side, their opponents seemed to cut through United much too easily. One or two quick passes or beat a man and they were into dangerous positions.
Overall, here were my thoughts.
DDG continues his amazing run. Not frequently called upon but when asked, the Spaniard responds. Made a save to end the half and then kept his concentration on Riviere to start the second. He saved United’s bacon with saves right after the goal and to close the match. What a player he has been for the Reds over the last two season.
Defensively, a mixed bag. Evans did just enough while Chris Smalling put hearts in the throats of supporters with a late challenge in the box early in the match (probably a penalty). However I thought he grew into the game and showed real composure in possession. Speaking of Rojo, while defensively solid, he struggles in possession and makes too many loose passes for me, although his layoff created an early chance which Herrera smacked wide. The third man runs were excellent from Valencia although his service was hit and miss.
In the midfield Blind was ok. I like that he goes for challenges and he usually is well positioned but sometimes . . . . Herrera failed to make a real impact on the match. Passes not quite on the mark and he was guilty of a turnover at midfield in the second half which nearly led to the opener. Have to say that Fellaini had a pretty good game and in the second half he had some nice touches. Not the greatest competition but . . . . Anyone who knows me knows that Young is not my favorite player but this year he has shown improvement and given his all. Looks to beat his man and provide service, which is admirable. His goal was the result of a complete miscue from Krul and continues a trend of United being lucky rather than good.
Then there’s Angel di Maria. Confidence is definitely shaken and he may need a rest away from the firing line. There is the school of thought that he play his way back into form but I would just let him cool his heels. He lasted almost an hour before giving way for Januzaj who was exciting but ultimately a let down. Good to see Carrick get a couple of minutes. His experience and class could be vital in upcoming matches.
I thought Rooney’s activity was excellent and really shows why he’s a 9 and not a 10 or an 8. Checked to the ball to create 1, 2’s with teammates and dropped deeper on occasion to spread the play. Finishing was a little off as his dinked shot rolled harmlessly wide and he missed another chance minutes later trying to be too clever after a turnover form Coloccini. Also he was offside a lot in the second stanza and that was frustrating.
As for the Magpies, Sissoko was a beast for the Magpies. He was strong, decisive and active and his surging run in the first half nearly led to a goal for Riviere before he tripped over his feet. Jonás Gutiérrez’s appearance was a feel good story as the Argentine returned from cancer. The hosts saw a little more of the ball in the second half but couldn’t make the breakthrough.
In the end three vital points for the Reds. Still not great but I like this formation and they seem to making it through the gears. How they will be play against sterner opposition will be an interesting story. Chris Waddle kept stressing during the commentary the lack of thrust from United, not committing their opponents, playing everything in front of them. This has been the case against inferior teams and will not hold up against the top five. How LvG sorts this out could make or break their season.
Finally at first glance I didn’t like the Newcastle home shirt with the giant large black area around the pectoral region but have to say it’s growing on me. The gold accents are a nice touch as well. As for United, can I just say that I prefer when United go with matching shorts and socks? Just a much cleaner look and with the white shorts and socks you could almost imagine that the Reds were back in Europe as that is their usual strip for matches under the floodlights.
Bring on the Gunners.