Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 0 A Game of Two Halves
Newcastle started the game after a 9 day since playing Aston Villa. United came into the game with only a 3 days rest after the weekends tie against Manchester City. Tiote was back after suspension, moving into the middle. Nolan still out, but Barton continued to play on the right Guthrie partnered Tiote. Ireland made it to the bench for the first time since his loan move to Tyneside.
Rooney returned for United, while Scholes after seeing red was replaced by Brazilian Anderson. Javier and Rooney were the preferred strike force for the evening while Giggs played wide and Smalling came in for an unfit Ferdinand.
High Tempo Start
Newcastle started brightly, moving the ball quickly and pressing Manchester United in their own half. United looked rushed and uncomfortable unable to get a grasp of the game, giving the ball away with forced and unforced errors all over the park. The Geordies, were looking to win the ball back in United’s half.
Newcastle looked to spray the ball wide to Barton and Guiterrez in their direct play looking to put the ball into the box whenever possible. The two wingers though had differing approaches to their delivery. Barton sought to hit the ball from deep into the box whenever possible, put it in the mixer for Lovenkrands. While on the other wing, Guiterrez would take on O’Shea, trying to get in and beyond him to drive the ball in. But despite the delivery and good chances the strikers failed to make much of their chances. Early on Guiterrez did look like he was getting the better of the tall Irishmen causing problems and winning a few key free kicks in good areas.
United looked tired, giving the ball away away. For the majority of the first half Giggs was no where to be seen and as a result United failed to create many chances.
The true sign of frustration was how Wayne Rooney got deeper and deeper as the second half went on, looking to get on the ball and drag United back into the game. Towards the end of the second half Newcastle stepped off the peddle and Rooney got into the game and controlling possession.
Second Half: United Let The Ball do The Work
To go on a rant here, why is Alex Ferguson allowed into the dressing room at half time? Fergie was able to get into the dressing room give his orders to his players and putting them back into shape for the second half. He is obviously a great man manager and motivator his presence in the dressing room is certainly an advantage.
United came out brighter in the second half and looked to get themselves back into the game, impose themselves on Newcastle very much as they had United had been imposed upon in the first half. Giggs began to keep wide while Rooney would come in support and look to get involved. United began to have more space between the lines moving the ball quickly, letting the ball do the work instead of United.
Newcastle though kept shape, sitting deep and becoming difficult to break down. Javier Hernandez had no space to get in behind Newcastle as he actually did in the first minute of the game. Rooney was allowed to get on the ball but couldn’t find much to do with it and began just to hit shots from outside the box. This may have been a perfect game to introduce Berbatov late, the space allowed between the lines coupled with Rooney may have caused more issues and better link-up play.
Changes came late into the game, Ireland came on for his début game for Newcastle, on for Lovenkras, as Newcastle looked get a hold of the ball and effectively hit on the counter attack. Ireland look lively finding space on the counter attacks and with his first touch of the ball hitting a volley a yard or so wide with his first touch in the black and white.
Anderson came off for Valencia and Owen for Nani as the game went out, Rooney moved out wide while Giggs came into the centre and Owen dropped deep behind Henandez matching Newcastle in the midfield. Manchester United looked to go a more direct, Rooney picking the ball up wide and running at defenders. Pressure began to build as United patiently passed probing for a killer pass, but Newcastle kept shape and made it difficult to play through them, knowing a draw would be a fantastic result.
Manchester United came to St James with little surprises, but looking a little tired from playing at Wembley at the weekend. It was an open game, both teams having half chances but little end product and neither goalkeeper was rarely tested. It wasn’t the most tactical fascinating game.
A bright start from Newcastle soon dimmed when they couldn’t keep up the relentess attack on Manchester United and as Rooney started coming back into the midfield deeper and deeper, Manchester United were able to keep the ball much better, relieving pressure and beginning to impose themselves on the game. A good result for Newcastle and the draw keeps the door wide open for Arsenal to challenge until the end.