More expansive passing
In the first half, Manchester United’s play was markedly different to recent weeks in that Louis van Gaal’s side looked for the forward ball a lot more and played expansive balls instead of the simple sideways pass. Daley Blind and Ander Herrera regularly found themselves on the ball, Angel di Maria was running at his opponents down the right flank and Marouane Fellaini made himself a nuisance.
Newcastle didn’t help themselves by setting up to play on the counter but United can only play what’s in front of them and they did that well. However, they were limp as a wet noodle in front of goal still.
Lack of a killer touch
United’s play in the middle of the park was good but their finishing was anything but. Wayne Rooney wasted two excellent chances in the first half before Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young fired straight at Tim Krul during the second period.
Their struggles in front of goal make the decision to start Juan Mata and Radamel Falcao on the bench a baffling one. Yes, neither of them have had good times of late but both players undoubtedly have the quality to win a match. Mata, in particular, was missed, and his late inc. Van Gaal pointed to Fellaini’s pressing game as motivation behind the Belgian’s inclusion but United needed that killer instinct in the final third and Mata would have provided that.
David de Gea. Say no more.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 4, 2015
United were hoping to create memorable moments on the pitch following a string of below-par displays but they made headlines for all the wrong reasons against Newcastle. Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse appeared to spit at each other following an altercation in what was a highly unsavoury moment during the match.
On top of being petulant, Evans’ behaviour was an embarrassment to United and he can have no complaints if he is banned retrospectively by the FA. After a disappointing season, Evans should focus on letting his feet do the talking.
Angel di Maria
“What a waste of money!”
Newcastle fans were in fine voice after Angel di Maria was once again substituted by Louis van Gaal. This time, the Argentine lasted 57 minutes after he was brought off at half time against Sunderland last weekend.
Van Gaal’s decision was entirely vindicated against Sunderland as Adnan Januzaj came on to make a real difference in the game but Di Maria played better against Newcastle and he was unlucky to come off. Still, ‘better’ is simply not good enough when it comes to a £59m signing. Di Maria must do much better as United head into a tough run of fixtures in March and April.
Another three points
Whatever you want to say about the performances, you can’t say anything against the results. Two losses in the last 22 games and sitting in fourth position? Bring on Arsenal in the FA Cup.