The hour is darkest before dawn, they say. Problem is, it also gets dark before a tropical storm and that summed up the mood of a lot of United fans leaving the game after this latest setback this afternoon. While I still remain firmly in the ‘give Moyes time’ camp, there have to be concerns about whether the club’s hierarchy will see it the same way, particularly in the light of a fifth defeat and only two points from that last four games, all of which has created even more distance between the Reds and those once guaranteed Champions League places.
While it’s true that, as with the Everton game in midweek, United missed chances to seize the initiative in this game long before Newcastle’s second half winner, we aren’t creating nearly enough of them. It was disappointing too that the visitors’ goal came just after United’s most concerted period of pressure and yet, following Cabaye’s finish after 61 minutes, we failed to mount anything like such sustained attacking play again.
Early in the second half, Chicharito had seen his shot saved by Krul’s legs and the keeper also saved from Januzaj before Evra’s header struck the Newcastle post. That was about as good as it got, though. During the rest of the game, United pressure was erratic and came in fits and starts. Too often the play lacked fluency: on countless occasions a player in a Red shirt was forced to slow up play due to a ball played behind him or the failure of a colleague to move into a clear position. Newcastle will no doubt feel this was down to their own positional play, but the truth is that this was yet another example this season of a fairly ordinary side finding themselves able to soak up what sporadic United pressure there was in order to win with the odd goal. Newcastle, like West Brom and Everton, are nothing special, and that was enough.
Today, the lack of a creative impetus in the side was all too evident. Rooney’s absence through suspension was inevitably the most noticeable, but the missing Kagawa and Carrick meant United possessed little spark through the middle of the team. Januzaj was, not for the first time this season, United’s most threatening player. While Jones and Cleverley, as usual, gave us substance and energy in midfield early in the game, ultimately passing it out wide to the young Belgian was frequently the only option available, which rendered most of United’s attacking play predictable and one-dimensional.
So Newcastle became the third team this season to leave Old Trafford with all three points. United, meanwhile, remain stuck in mid-table and looking increasingly vulnerable on their own patch to teams with very little right to instill fear in any opposition, let alone the league champions. The groans and boos from the stands don’t help, but unfortunately they go with the territory and it’s territory we really can’t afford to be in for much longer.
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