Last season’s 3-0 home win over Manchester United was one of the highlights of an impressive campaign and the pre-match discussions suggested that Newcastle United may be able to achieve a similarly positive result this time round with all of our opponents’ recent defensive problems.

However, it was not to be as Manchester United’s free flowing attack set about highlighting our own problems at the back. From the outset Newcastle were faced with a barrage of attacking football and our makeshift centre-back pairing of Mike Williamson and James Perch failed to assert themselves against their defensive rivals. Manchester United’s dominant display in the opening minutes was soon rewarded with a goal, as Demba Ba was unable to prevent Jonny Evans from converting van Persie’s corner in the eighth minute. Thereafter, Manchester United had numerous chances to increase their lead with efforts from Kagawa, Welbeck and Rafael da Silva all failing to find the target.

However, Newcastle’s fragile resilience was not to last for very long as in the 14th minute another opposition defender was given the freedom to advance into the area and head home from another corner. This time it was Patrice Evra who latched onto a Wayne Rooney cross, and an inquest between Steve Harper and Davide Santon could not disguise that the goals which they had just conceded were merely the result of sloppy defending. In previous matches this season we have not been too troubled by corners, but yesterday’s malaise was symptomatic of a lack of defensive cohesion coupled with an inability to hold onto the ball in midfield in the opening 15 minutes. Evra was one of several opposition players who had been outspoken in the media before yesterday’s match of Manchester United’s desire to avenge last season’s result. Newcastle would have been well advised to heed this warning and prepare for an onslaught on their goal. Instead they were left reeling in the wake of a two goal deficit which is difficult to turn around against most teams in the Premier League, let alone against a team which has won the league 12 times since its inception in 1992. Indeed Pardew was soon forced to change his team’s formation from an ineffective 4-4-2 to try and gain some possession in midfield. This change in formation yet again highlights Pardew’s dilemma with his Senegalese strike-force. Although both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are willing to work hard for the team they seem unable to combine well upfront and this is a problem that Newcastle must fix if we are to mount an effective assault on the top half of the league.

After 15 minutes Newcastle attempted to wake from their slumbers and had their first effort at the Manchester United goal, a shot by Jonas Gutierrez, whose work rate was as high as ever but once again he failed to score. Thereafter, Ba tried to latch onto a Cabaye free kick but could only shoot over the bar and Newcastle won a few free kicks in dangerous areas but they were unable to unlock a stubborn Manchester United defence. Newcastle’s defenders should look to emulate the work that their opponents have put into a patched up backline if they wish to mount a serious challenge on a top half league position this season. Manchester United’s outfield defenders have been much criticised in recent weeks for letting in sloppy goals but their performance yesterday was as solid as usual. Their goalkeeper De Gea, on the other hand, was much less convincing as he continually flapped at crosses and we should have made much more of his indecision. Indeed both of goalkeepers on display yesterday looked short of their best in this match as early in the first half Steve Harper contrived to concede possession to Danny Welbeck on the edge of the area and was relieved to see the resultant shot flash wide of the mark. A better finisher would have compounded our misery and it will be a relief to see Tim Krul return from injury.

Shortly after the half hour mark there was yet another caution for Chieck Tiote, whose theatrics after his tackle showed his passion for the game but he should have reserved his energy for something more positive on the ball. After this moment of exuberance Newcastle seemed to up their game and won a series of corners but we were unable to have any meaningful efforts on target. Our frustrations in front of goal seemed to get to Jonas Gutierrez, who was lucky that Kagawa had not planted his foot when he came steaming into a challenge on the Japanese midfielder. As the game went into half time there were some nice periods of play from Newcastle but there was never any real sense that we could mount an effective assault on our opponent’s goal.

After the half-time interval Newcastle came out much the stronger side and could have gained a foothold in the game when Demba Ba’s shot came back off the woodwork to his strike partner Papiss Cisse who was unlucky to see his effort scooped off the line by De Gea. In real time I thought that the ball had crossed the line but after seeing last night’s television replays it looks as if this was not the case. However, the decision was a marginal one and if it had gone our way we may have been able to rescue a point from the game. As it was for all our second-half attacks we were unable to break Manchester United’s defence and it was left to Tom Cleverly to seal our opponent’s victory with an audacious cross come shot which looped over Harper into the far corner. Whether he meant it or not is a question that only the player can solve but from our point of view it was a sucker punch.

In the remaining minutes we were treated to another example of van Persie’s belligerence when he appeared to elbow Cabaye in the face. At the time of writing it has been announced that van Persie has again escaped punishment for this latest assault and we can only wait to see whether this incident will have any repercussions from our players when we visit Old Trafford.

We were well beaten yesterday by a superior team, but the manner of our defeat is yet another worrying illustration of our need to start matches in top gear rather than labouring in first. It is also crucial that we use the forthcoming international break to ensure that our first choice defenders Steven Taylor and Coloccini, and goalkeeper Time Krul are fit to do battle in the Wear-Tyne derby. It is imperative that we beat Sunderland, and this nest game could play a pivotal role in our season.

By Rachel Horne

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  1. silver account

    Gutierrez forced Webb to pull out his yellow card once again with a ridiculous challenge on Kagawa. Rooney had an opportunity to add a third two minutes before the first half ended but Van Persie headed deflection goalwards just overshot the Englishman standing in front of the open net.

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