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Posted by Marc Duffy on 08/17/2010

If Newcastle fans were honest with themselves (as most are) then this result was fairly predictable. When the fixtures were revealed a couple of months ago I was dismayed that we didn’t have a home tie vs a bottom half team to maintain last seasons momentum, but all in all at least this fixture (arguably the toughest of the season) is out of the way and we managed not to ship 6 like our automatic promotion rivals did at Chelsea.

There were more negatives than positives (obviously), but I will start by looking on the plus side. Andy Carroll, miss aside, was very good. Playing up front alone at Old Trafford vs Vidic and Evans would be enough to scare almost every 20 year old in Britain – not Caveman Carroll. He battled all match against the two of them and was aerially dominant. It might have looked even better if he had someone supporting him to capitalise on his flick ons. Giant Serb Vidic will certainly have known he had been in a game when he woke up this morning.

I get the impression that Hughton sent the team out almost happy to lose, as long as it was not a slaughter (damage limitation). If you go in to a game at Old Trafford sitting as deeply as we did from the off, there is only going to be one outcome whether you are NUFC or AC Milan. Alan Smith barely wandered any more than 25 yards from his own goal – surely he would have been better deployed shadowing 35 year old Paul Scholes? Scholes ran the show without covering too many miles but he was allowed far too much space and respect. This was obvious from 5 minutes in but no moves were made to address this.

Another thing that caught us out was the pace of the game in comparison to the Championship. I think Kevin Nolan struggled most with this – the rare times that he got on to the end of a Carroll header or a pass from the midfield, he was tackled almost before he even had full control of the ball. Last year he was almost always allowed to set himself and storm forward. He looked overweight and unfit in this environment.

His midfield partner, Joey ‘Barry Chuckle’ Barton (Google him if you aren’t from the UK) fared little better and most of the game passed him by. The same can be said of the wide men – Routledge looked lightweight and Jonas didn’t seem entirely sure what a football was when it was at his feet.

As for the back 4, more negativity I’m afraid. Plenty of valiant defending, especially early on, but little in the way of quality defending. It occasionally had the look of a lower division team at a Prem ground on FA Cup 3rd round day. Jose, easily the best full back in the Championship last year, was making basic errors and was caught out of position too often – this led to problems for Colo who was caught between covering for his mate and defending his own ground. Williamson did OK but sometimes seemed completely bamboozled by their forward moment. Im not going to be too harsh on Perch – others have been quick to get stuck in to him, but this was his very first top flight appearance and there could not have been a more difficult environment for it to take place.

We could have conceded 6 but WE DIDN’T. We also had as many shots on target as the home team (OK, a slightly misleading stat as a few of them were weak, hopeful digs from 25 yards that barely reached Edwin) and our morale did not fade – our best period came midway through the second half at 0 v 2 and we looked much better when we went to 442. The spirit was good.

The season ahead is going to be tough – but I saw enough in this game, in the most difficult of circumstances to believe that we will have enough to survive.

Villa at home on Sunday is a big game for us – competing with them will be heartening as it will show that we can compete with more than just the bottom few – and I think we will give them a game! Howay the lads.

My player ratings:
Harper 5, Perch 3, Enrique 4, Colo 6, Williamson 6, Smith 6, Barton 5, Routledge 4, Jonas 5, Nolan 4, Carroll 7

On Twitter? Follow me @MarcSDuffy and Soccernet @soccernetfc


Posted by Tom on 08/17/2010

Not quite sure why Enriques getting flack for that game. Valencia barely had a touch, the only reason Enrique was ever out of possession is because he was one of the few people venturing forward. I'd have given Enrique 6 and Colo 4 I thought he was appalling at times and Williamson bailed him out a few times. Perch wasn't great but first game and at old trafford. We'll see what he can do against lesser opponents than man u.

Posted by Mark on 08/18/2010

First NUFC game I have gotten to watch on TV in the States since May 09. Regardless of the outcome it was good to see them Live on TV vs streaming video online. They need to stick with the 442. There are opportunities to clean up but only if we have bodies in the box. I am looking forward to the home match at SJP and hope 52000+ show up to show their support. Here's to some points this weekend

Posted by Bryan on 08/18/2010

Very poor article. Clearly was watching a different game. Enrique was superb defensively, he completely dominated Valencia and he won't have many tougher opponents this season. He was also very unlucky with the first goal. Williamson was quite good except for the two balls he gave away on the edge of our box. Jonas worked extremely hard, tackled well and made a few decent runs although with little to no end product. Barton was appalling, think the early yellow card stopped him from playing his game cos he was not existant for the whole game. I was hoping for a better performance there.

Posted by GPH on 08/18/2010

Toon was out matched in this game, and do agree with some of your observations, however, you can't really blame any individual on Newcastle team as they all looked more passionate about their play, as well as pressing the Man Utd players throughout. I personally believe I would rather have a team lose passionately, than standing around stunned at 2-0, which would remind me of the latter half of the last season we were in the up in the Premiership. Don't miss the boys that left, especially that lazy Michael Owen.

Posted by KEITH on 08/18/2010

AGAIN...what game did you watch? the most exciting player on the pitch for us was Routledge....he stormed by players with his speed, but was only left in no-man's land since nobody could come for support. Our entire back four was weak; but Carrol was very good.

Posted by David on 08/18/2010

Agreed. Enrique's class. Colo needs to show the form that he did in the championship and not succumbing to the pressure of the prem. Joke to me that anyone would pay money for Perch..Forest must be having a laugh. Nolan looked slow and poor. Need to spend on a creative midfielder. Allowing bremen or ac to take ben arfa from right under our noses exemplifies mike ashley perfectly. Haven't even spent two million since promotion. Freddy Shepherd all over again. Sell the club to someone who cares.

Posted by Sean on 08/18/2010

I liked the overall effort. Houghton definitely has the lads playing hard, and at this point after promotion, that is all that matters.

I like what I saw from Carroll, but I hope the single striker shape was just for Old Trafford. Need to see another striker to pair with him, someone with speed.

Posted by danno on 08/18/2010

i agree that the back four wasnt quality, but certainly more organized than two years ago

the midfield was bad, but again not as bad as two years ago

we are going to hurt for goals if we dont get crosses into carroll though

Posted by Myles Federico on 08/19/2010

Our main problem by far was tactical. Should have been a 4-4-2 with the evidence being the lack of forward progress. Any offensive chances we had were one v man u's back four. In the premiership, that just isn't gonna cut it. We were lucky to see maybe one or two connected passes. Better luck saturday against villa and hopefully carroll and our wingers can get some help.

Posted by Ricoz on 08/21/2010

Overall i thought it was a pretty good performance by the lads. I wont blame Perch that much as it was his first game in the top flight and he looks visibly nervous. Routledge is an exciting player going foward but his defensive failing reminded me of why he was still playing championship football with his abilities. At times he left Perch all alone by himself with Evra and Nani running circles around Perch.

Posted by Flat Black on 08/23/2010

Are you completely convinced Harper performed much better than Enrique?

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Marc Duffy Marc Duffy is a National Account Manager in the alcoholic drinks industry - a career in alcohol was obviously the natural step after following Newcastle United for all of his 32 years. Marc blames his father for his obsession with Newcastle United - since attending his first game at the age of 4 Marc has endured many ups and downs, and despite the lack of silverware remains positive that a trophy will be won at some point in his lifetime! (Wait, does the Intertoto cup not count?) Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSDuffy

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