Newcastle United 0-0 Manchester United: 20 Thoughts & Tidbits

Words by Aziz Khalil – follow him on Twitter @azizk47

Written for NUFC360 - a new brand aiming to bring you all things Newcastle United. Be sure to follow for updates. Follow them @NUFC360

A staggering defensive display from Newcastle today, one that fans had not seen in quite some time, was one of the main reasons for a startling draw at Old Trafford today. Wayne Rooney seemed to have put Manchester United up early but was flagged for offside. Man U kept pushing and had the Magpies on their backheels. Once Newcastle settled down and kept a little bit of possession, Mbemba delivered a wonderful lob that met Mitrovic’s head but rattled the crossbar. There were some other tremendous opportunities for Manchester; one from Chicharito late in the match, but Tim Krul displayed some utter brilliance to keep it out. Steve McClaren subbed Tioté on in the 78th minute and the team held their defensive shape to escape Old Trafford with a point.

Here are my 20 thoughts and tidbits:

It was a very sluggish start, Newcastle was luckily to not be down 2-0 early on, but once they weathered the storm, and kept possession, the Magpies looked much better. They got better as the game went on.

There was a major gap between the midfielders and defenders at the beginning of the match. Anita, Colback and Wijnaldum were not on the same page as Steven Taylor and Coloccini. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Januzaj and Rooney had plenty of room to roam in the middle of the field. But once again, when Newcastle weathered the storm and picked up their defensive responsibilities, the game took a turn.

This should be the last time we see Gabriel Obertan starting. Ayozé displayed some great defensive instincts on the left hand side and was helping Haidara as much as he could. The same cannot be said for Obertan. Depay and Mbemba were going at it 1 on 1 95% of the time and Chancel was on an island by himself, without the help of his winger. Poor display by Obertan today, with Thauvin fit and much better options (Aarons, Ayoze, Sissoko if healthy), Obertan’s days in the starting lineup are numbered.

We got a glimpse of what Mitrovic brings to the table when he receives proper service. In the 20th minute, the Anderlecht boys connected for the best chance Newcastle had all match. A great cross from Mbemba reached Mitrovic’s forehead and his powerful header smashed the crossbar.

Speaking of Mitrovic; I thought he was great today and displayed some fantastic power and defensive abilities. He was tracking back and clearing away corners; something we never saw from Papiss Cissé. However, soon he will realize that he won’t get all the calls all the time, that this is a different league and he’ll start having a massive target on his back (if he hasn’t already). This guy is becoming problematic for the opposition and they are trying to rattle him as much as possible. Kudos to Mitro for standing his ground today and not reacting to bad tackles and receiving another yellow.

This was by far Coloccini’s best game this season. No doubt, man of the match. Held his ground, was a leader on the back line and had them all pick up their defensive duties. Key blocks and uncanny tackling; we got a taste of old Colo today. Happy to see that.

Someone else who has been poor recently but was incredible tonight: Tim Krul. Had an astonishing game changing save on Chicharito in the 79th minute that protected Newcastle from earning no points today. Krul was in control all day. Was he showing off in front of his old national team coach?

Keep in mind, Newcastle was missing arguably their two players today (Moussa Sissoko and Daryl Janmaat). Stupendous performance without those two.

What more can you say about Chancel Mbemba? I keep harping on his abilities and defensive prow. Memphis got the best of him at times but the Chancellor held his own. Not your typical RB, a much more natural CB, he did present some beautiful touches and as previously mentioned, delivered an incredible ball to Mitrovic.

Florian Thauvin also looked the part today, which is impressive since he has only had about 2 training sessions with the club. He looked like he belonged today, it won’t always be smooth sailing but you can tell he’s got the touch and vision to be a player in this league. Hopefully he is the solution to the problematic and dreadful service Mitrovic has received up top.

Another solid performance by Wijnaldum. By no means did he wow or stand out, but he was quietly good and that’s still impressive in a defensively tactic scheme put out by McClaren today. He pushed out wide with 10 minutes left in the match and played well; this man can play all over the field. Once Sissoko is healthy, those two will strive playing together.

I thought Ayozé was also quietly good today; he brought a different dynamic to the wing that Obertan does not bring and is responsible defensively, which is important when playing next to Haidara. Perez’s craftiness and his knack of knowing when to cut left or right, or turn around the defender is incredibly important when you play on a starting 11 that lacks creativity; and let’s be honest, creativity is one of this team’s biggest deficiency.

Wijnaldum and Mitrovic were on the same page, and their confidence and comfort with one another will keep growing as the season goes on.

Vurnon Anita was good, once again. He did not have the best of games versus Swansea last week but looked worthy today. Nice to see his career and game revitalized under a manager that knows how and where to play him.

In Manchester United’s defense, Wayne Rooney’s goal was not offside.

Haidara’s positioning in today’s match is something else. Seems like he’s more of a winger than a fullback these days. This is one of the club’s biggest issues; they need a real LB and/or a cover RB. Cannot keep playing Mbemba on at RB anymore, don’t want him to become another Mbiwa.

This was one of the most exciting 0-0 matches I’ve watched in quite some time.

At the 78th minute, McClaren brought Tioté on for Perez and the team sat back and did their best impression of mimicking a wall. 45 clearances, 32 tackles, 26 blocks (!!), 13 interceptions and a clean sheet. Like I said, a wall.

With one of the toughest start of the season schedule in the whole Premier League, coming out of Old Trafford with a point is a big result and a major boost of confidence for this team going forward. It all goes back to the players listening to the manager’s words and executing the proposed plan. Need to see the same performance next week at home versus Arsenal.

Fans started seeing the impact Steve McClaren is having on this club. A reformed team and the tactics seem to be working. Today he had a plan and the team exquisitely executed it. The club may have looked exposed early on but the veterans like Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Krul made sure the team held their ground to come out with a point. Instead of harping about gaining a point away at Old Trafford, McClaren talked about missing out on 3 points. That is the difference between him and Alan Pardew. Talk to you next week!

MOTM: Fabricio Coloccini

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul, Mbemba, Taylor, Coloccini, Haidara, Anita, Colback, Wijnaldum, Obertan (Thauvin 69), Perez (Tioté 78), Mitrovic (Cissé 88).

MANCHESTER UNITED: Romero, Darmian (Valencia 77), Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Schweinsteiger (Carrick 59), Schneiderlin, Januzaj (Hernandez 67), Mata, Memphis, Rooney.

Ref: Craig Pawson

Crowd: 75, 354

Newcastle United player ratings:

Tim Krul – 8

Chancel Mbemba – 8.5

Steven Taylor – 7

Fabricio Coloccini – 9

Massadio Haidara – 6.5

Jack Colback – 6.5

Vurnon Anita – 7

Georginio Wijnaldum – 7.5

Ayoze Perez – 7 (Cheick Tioté – N/A)

Gabriel Obertan – 5 (Florian Thauvin – 7)

Aleksandar Mitrovic – 8 (Papiss Cissé (N/A)

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