A lacklustre Manchester United came from behind to salvage a somewhat fortunate point against a relegation-threatened Newcastle.
It would be a lively start in front of a raucous St James’ Park crowd, and Newcastle would reap the rewards for putting pressure on Manchester United, taking advantage of hesitation on the ball by the returning Raphael Varane, finding the influential Allan Saint-Maximin who drifted in from the left and despatched past David de Gea who was left flat-footed as the ball flew beyond him.
Prior to their Covid-enforced break, United had looked poor in their last outing against Norwich, and in the first half, despite enjoying almost 70% possession, they certainly didn’t look any better, with Newcastle looking the most likely to score again.
Ralf Rangnick made two changes at half-time, bringing on Jadon Sancho and Edinson Cavani, though it didn’t really change too much from a Manchester United perspective who were sorely lacking in quality in all departments of their play.
However, Newcastle have the worst defensive record in the Premier League and came into the game with just one clean sheet all season, and the Red Devils would ensure that record would not be improved upon with 20 minutes left to play. The ball was spread to Diogo Dalot on the right who picked out Cavani in the box, and while his initial effort was blocked, it fell straight back to the Uruguayan poacher who made no mistake with his second opportunity.
Newcastle continued to fashion chances in the second half, though were unlucky to come up against another wonderful David de Gea display, the Spaniard back to his best of late as he made a number of vital saves, the pick of the bunch a flying save to keep out a Miguel Almiron effort late on.
Speaking after the game, Rangnick gave a damning assessment of his side’s display.
“I didn’t like the performance at all,” he told Sky Sports. “Today we didn’t control the game apart from a few moments. It’s all about energy, physicality and who wins the second balls. In all those areas we weren’t at our best. The good thing is we got a point but the performance needs to be better.
Newcastle 1-1 Man Utd FT:
Shots on target: 8-4
Big Chances: 1-3
Touches in opp. box: 19-18
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“You have to be ready and able to win those direct duels and this was not that often the case. When we were in possession we had too many giveaways and even with the goal, that doesn’t make things easy.
“Today was not a question of body language, it was a question of body physicality. If you want to be competitive here you have to get physical and this was not the case in many parts of the game.
“Our biggest problem was the mistakes we made. Even when we scored the equaliser we were not really controlling the game and taking the right decisions.
“We were one goal behind and we needed to take more risks. In some situations, including the goal, we were good and with Edinson we had another striker who was dangerous.
“Today it was not a question of formation – it was a question of how aggressive we were.
“In three days we have the next game. We can do better but we have to do it. We shouldn’t look for excuses – we need to be better and get more physical. I was not happy with our performance with the ball or when we had to press. What kind of energy mode do we play with the ball and without the ball?”
Next up for Manchester United is a home game against Burnley on Monday night before they host Wolves on January 3rd.