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Manchester United suffer damaging defeat to top four rivals

by Conner Botterill

Manchester United suffered a damaging loss to top four rivals Newcastle at St. James’s Park yesterday (Sunday) afternoon.

It was a weak display on the first game back from the international break and the result has blown the race for Champions League qualification wide open.

Second half goals from Joe Willock and Callum Wilson handed United a 2-0 reverse, as the Magpies exacted revenge for the Carabao Cup final defeat.

The game was a stark reminder of just why Erik ten Hag was desperate to improve United’s midfield last summer.

United lined up with emergency loanee, Marcel Sabitzer, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes in the middle of the park, with Wout Weghorst dropping in to help with numbers.

With Casemiro suspended and Christian Eriksen still in recovery from injury, United failed to gain any control in the game from start to finish.

McTominay curiously played further forward that Sabitzer and Fernandes, with the view of primarily stopping the creativity of Bruno Guimaraes, but to also get into the box, as he’d done to devastating effect for Scotland in the week.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. United barely laid a glove on their opponents and The Telegraphs James Ducker described the performance as one of the teams worst under Ten Hag.

“With the exception of that unholy trinity of defeats to Brentford, Manchester City and Liverpool, this was the worst performance of the Erik ten Hag era,” he wrote.

Despite the obvious improvements under Ten Hag, the performance will have reaffirmed the belief that there is still major work to be done before United can challenge the elite, again a view highlighted by Ducker.

“(The game) underlines just how much work Ten Hag has to do in the transfer market this summer when United must find the funds not only to sign a top class striker, such as Harry Kane or Victor Osimhen, but also bring in at least one pedigree midfielder and a leading full-back as a bare minimum,” he wrote.

The Weghorst gamble appears to be running out of steam. The unknown quantity has now been found out and his obvious lack of quality is beginning to take its toll.

Not that he can be blamed; the big Dutchman gives his all and is living his dream but the fact yesterday was his 19th start on the spin for United says more about the state of United’s performance in the transfer market than it does about him.

United need to dust themselves down with the games coming thick and fast. Brentford visit Old Trafford on Wednesday night before relegation threatened, Everton, travel to Manchester on Saturday morning with nothing less than six points from those two games good enough.

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