With Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points in their respective games whilst Liverpool take on Leicester City in gameweek 19, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had another opportunity to take the advantage of the situation as they faced a Newcastle side who have been struggling in the games away from home. The end outcome was no surprise given the differences of both teams.
Going into the Thursday evening match, Solskjaer would have expected a couple of goals as well as a straightforward victory, despite the side have been unable to breakdown the mid-table teams over the last couple of months. On the other hand, for Steve Bruce, even taking a point away from Old Trafford would have been more than enough, as Newcastle United sit confidently in tenth-place.
Looking at the game on a whole note, the hosts had dominated possession as expected and were the side that had produced more chances and completed shots on target. Meanwhile, the visitors had a few good moments early in the first half, especially on the counter-attack, but were constantly sat deep in their own half for the full match and were not successful in chasing and recovering the ball.
The first goal came for the away side, as the Red Devils lost the ball in the middle of the pitch, allowing the Magpies to counter effectively with a couple of passes as Matthew Longstaff slotted the ball past David De Gea and into the net. However, the visitor’s lead was cancelled out seven minutes later, as Anthony Martial’s shot on goal got a slight deflection by Martin Dubravka before going in.
Just over ten minutes later, Mason Greenwood pounced on a poor defensive error made by Newcastle and scored a peach of a goal, scoring his third league goal of the season. It didn’t take long for the side to extend their lead, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s inch-perfect cross was met by the rising head of Marcus Rashford, who made no mistakes and headed the ball into the back of the net.
Following the half-time break, United were on the front foot once again and it did not take them long to get another goal, as another mistake from Newcastle’s backline allowed Martial to latch onto the ball and run towards goal before bagging his second goal of the game. With the three points being more or less confirmed, Solskjaer made the ideal decision of bringing off both Martial and Rashford just after the hour mark, giving the duo a deserved rest ahead of the Burnley match.
In all honesty, the remainder of the match did not result in many chances created or shots completed on target, as the home side continued to recycle the ball well on both sides of the pitch whilst the visitors were accepting the inevitable outcome and did not want to leak anymore goals.
In the end, the result helps Manchester United to go up to seventh-place on 28 points, being just four points away from fourth-place Chelsea. Meanwhile, Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United still sit well in the middle of league, as they remain in tenth-place and seven points above the relegation zone.
Here are the four valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…
Mason Greenwood is on the rise and is proving a point
For sure, it is still early days to look into the potential that Mason Greenwood has and the type of player that he could become, but one cannot deny the incredible confidence that oozes around him and how active he is on and off the ball. Despite the forward playing out of position and on the right flank, he was still able to get into the game through his movement and demand of wanting the ball.
Although it was his stunning goal that highlighted his performance against Newcastle, he still managed to show what else he is able to offer, as he produced two key passes, 84% successful pass rate and great energy when it came to winning the ball back. With how impressive Greenwood has been in recent weeks, it may leave Solskjaer with no choice but to start him from now on as a regular starter.
Turning Old Trafford into a fortress is a key for any type of success
One of the ongoing problems for Manchester United has been their record at Old Trafford, as a number of oppositions have come to the ground in great confidence that they have the possibility of walking away with a result. After beating Newcastle, the Red Devils have now achieved 19 points in 10 home games, which is simply not good enough for a side that are looking to finish in the top four.
The side may have the fifth best record at home in the league, however, it’s the results and the dominant performances in the home games that progress the team to become a collective that are prepared to challenge for the league and in other competitions. Until Old Trafford does not become a fortress once again, any prediction about the club’s long-term success has to be instantly ruled out.
Individual defensive errors from the Magpies bailed out the Red Devils
The main focus will be on the convincing victory and the couple of goals that were scored, however, it could have been a long evening for the Red Devils at Old Trafford if it weren’t for the defensive mistakes that were produced by the Magpies. From Dubravka’s error for the first, Fabian Schar giving the ball away for the second and finally, Sean Longstaff completing a poor back pass for the fourth and final goal, these moments could have been managed more effectively by the individuals.
There is no negatives to take away from a result like this, but United have to be proactive and constantly creative when dominating possession against a low-block side, as not many teams will give away the ball with ease and make mistakes defensively like Newcastle did. They did end the match on three big chances created and ten shots on target, though, Solskjaer’s men have to show that they have too much quality for the opposition rather than winning games through defensive blunders.
Solskjaer and Manchester United have to show the much needed consistency
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been managing the club for just over a year, and despite the lack of quality and squad depth that is available, he is still trying to find the right consistency that can guide the team forward. At the moment, even the Old Trafford faithful cannot predict which United side will show up at the next game, which does sum up the up and down season they are experiencing.
With the team facing the likes of Burnley, Arsenal, Norwich City and Liverpool over the next couple of weeks, United have to start showing a mean streak or a good run of victories in order for them to keep their hopes of finishing in the top four alive. Looking at the season up until now, they have been able to win two league games in a row on only one occasion, which would make a lot of people believe that they do not have the quality or consistency to achieve Champions League football.