Man United (A) – Review

Towards the end of last season Newcastle fans unveiled a banner that said: “we don’t demand a team that wins, we demand a club that tries.” On Saturday at Old Trafford you would have found it difficult to find someone who could fault the effort of those in white and blue.

The back five were all superb defensively, and combined with the tireless work from the likes of Vurnon Anita, an out of position Ayoze Perez and who could forget everyone’s favourite Serbian Aleksandar Mitrovic who quite simply ran until he could run no more.
It is in fact very difficult to criticise any member of Steve McClaren’s side for their performance. On Saturday afternoon it looked like Newcastle had a definite plan of how to play and after the first fifteen minutes an almost impeccable defensive shape, both of which were nothing but a distant dream under John Carver last year.

Having said that the first fifteen minutes felt like the Alamo. Wave after wave of attack came at us but our defence held out thanks to some poor finishing, good defending and brave officiating- The latter was especially enjoyable given that most Manchester United fans took at least ten seconds to clock that the linesman had put his flag up.

After the initial difficulty though, the magpies grew into the game and came closest to breaking the deadlock as Mitrovic rose superbly to meet Mbemba’s cross and was desperately unlucky to see it come back off the bar. From that moment onwards the away players and supporters grew in belief that we may be able to get something from this game.

The second half was quite slow to get started with very few chances in the early exchanges, the noise from the away end was however, relentless. After winning a corner though, Mitro decided the volume needed to be turned up. He looked over to the travelling contingent and pumped his arms a couple of times. The message was received well and clearly with a monumental roar which seemed to put a smile on his face along with the chants of: “MITRO, MITRO, MITRO”.

Florian Thauvin came on to make his debut and immediately put English football’s most expensive Left Back on his backside and despite 70 odd thousand of them getting more and more frustrated as they bemoaned the seemingly endless amount of square balls they played, inevitably Man United began to turn the screw.

Once again they were denied by magnificent defending, Tim Krul and their own wasteful finishing. Then came the terrifying ordeal that was injury time.

Four minutes felt like an hour and began with Chris Smalling heading against our post before a wonderful break by Thauvin, Wijnaldum and Cisse ended with Thauvin millimeters away from the perfect debut. It wasn’t finished there though as with one minute to go Coloccini could only clear as far as Michael Carrick who’s effort was deflected marginally wide and made 1,800 Geordies feel like we needed a change of pants.

Anyway we managed to see it through and the relief for all involved was extreme, with both players and fans exasperated at the full time whistle. Walking around Manchester after full time and talking to some of their fans it also felt good to hear many of them talk positively about us saying things like: “how come you lot have learned how to defend now”.

After the disappointment of last week games like Saturday serve as a reminder to us all as to why we get up at stupid hours of the morning to travel hundreds of miles at great expense and yet love every minute of it. It was a day to be proud of those players and appreciate their efforts. Had this game happened six weeks down the line I have no doubt that we would have posed more of a threat up top but suppose we can’t complain too much at a point and a clean sheet at Old Trafford.


Thauvin – Next Arrival ?

Marseille winger Florian Thauvin is set to become Newcastle United’ fifth signing of the summer. The Frenchman has been a long-term target of the Magpies and they look set to finally get their man ahead of this weekend’s trip to Manchester United.

Thauvin’s big-money arrival will see last summer’s star signing Remy Cabella head in the other direction in an initial loan deal. Some fans are disappointed by the news Cabella is leaving; I personally would have liked to have seen him get a chance under a proper coaching set up which has finally been installed at St James’ Park but it just was not meant to be.

I am not going to pretend to you in this article that I have seen Thauvin play, I will let others do that, but United have been crying out for a winger and it is even more underlined by the earlier acquisition on Aleksandar Mitrovic. Some will point to young Rolando Aarons sitting on the bench and state that the money being spent on Thauvin may be better spent on our leaky back line; and don’t get me wrong if I was in charge of the cheque book the remaining money would have been getting spent on the defence but Charnley is running the show here and I think I understand the reasoning behind another attacker joining rather than attempting to fix the back four..

If you look at the amount of senior players on the clubs books, which includes the likes of Gouffran and Williamson; and that is before you even consider that players like Marveaux who are still under contract, it leaves very little room for manoeuvre when it is the Premier League rules that you can only name 25 players over the age of 21. Some players have to move on before we can add players. It will be difficult coming off a good season to find a taker for some of the players but the damage from last year makes it almost impossible. The club do not seem to have any takers for the players many (if not all) fans no longer want. Cabella’s reputation is still strong in France, it’s easier to move him on that Gouffran. The transfer gives the club an opportunity to freshen up the squad and to replace what would be our third choice #10 for a first choice winger.

Thauvin now has to prove that he was worth the wait and hassle.


Swansea(a) – Review

As I trundled out of the Liberty Stadium as one of over a thousand Newcastle fans that made the long journey into Wales, much of the positivity from opening day draw against Southampton seemed a distant memory.

Newcastle quite simply didn’t show up against Swansea and the 2-0 score line flattered us. From the first whistle Swansea were the better team and while it was always likely to be a difficult game there were a number of particularly disappointing aspects from our performance.

First of all the defending was once more not good enough. The back four was caught square for the first goal and a simple through ball put Gomis through on goal. For the second Mbemba who doesn’t look comfortable at right back allowed the cross to come in and Coloccini gets beat by Ayew far too easily.

Something I don’t understand from that goal is when the cross comes in Steven Taylor is well in front of the front post and completely out of the game. Haidara was left picking up Gomis while Montero is free at the back. The best header of the ball we have was essentially doing nothing.

Another thing that will be taken away from the game is the stupidity of Daryl Janmaat. His red card all but ended any hope of us getting a result and it was completely needless. For the first foul Montero is facing his own goal and Janmaat cleans him out. Minutes before he was sent off he almost gave away a penalty as he dived in on Montero before receiving his second yellow for pulling him back deep inside Swansea’s half when we had plenty of cover.

Away from the obvious issues though what was frustrating is that Swansea pressed the ball much better than us throughout. As soon as a Newcastle player took a bad touch (and there were plenty of occasions) there was a Swansea player immediately in to steal the ball whereas when it was the other way around the Swans were afforded enough time to take at least 2-3 touches. The lack of pressure by Newcastle is summed up by Ashley Williams completing over 100 passes.

For roughly half an hour between Cisse going off and Mitrovic coming on Newcastle played 4-5-0. It seemed difficult to understand at the time but the only thing I can assume is that we did it to prevent the scoreline from becoming embarrassing. Under Pardew this is exactly the sort of game which would have ended in a 4-0 drubbing, but until we brought on Mitrovic it was utterly pathetic.

As for Mitrovic he appears to be a target man in more ways than one. While he won headers and held the ball up well, he was booed by the home fans from the moment he came on. They were calling for him to be sent off two minutes later as erm let’s say naivety got the better of him.

Referee Mike Jones seemed desperate to book him and for some reason moments after when Mitrovic chested the ball down laid it off and was given a free kick for being fouled it was the Serbian Striker he spoke to despite doing nothing wrong. Ashley Williams also attempted to ruffle his feathers in the same way he did to Sissoko when I saw us lose 1-0 at the Liberty in 2013. Sissoko fronted up to him and Williams promptly backed off, likewise Mitrovic didn’t back down. He made it uncomfortable for them, and we looked much better when he came on.

Overall we were rightly beaten by a better side and the performance was far more disappointing than the result. On Swansea they seem to be a much better side than last season and when they get on top it feels like there are far more than 20,000 in the stadium. Having said that, goal music and a bloke banging a drum for 90 minutes… howay man you’re not Wigan you’re better than that.
This was one to try and forget.


Janmatt – “Sorry”

“It was stupid of me and I have to apologise to my teammates, the supporters and everybody, because trying to win a game with ten men is very difficult.”

Were the words voiced by the Dutch right-back as his two early yellow cards left United to face Swansea with 10 men.

Jefferson Montero continued his electric form against Chelsea by ruin riot against NUFC. The Ecuadorian winger constantly bombarded the left wing from kick off leaving Daryl Janmatt chasing shadows, picking up two desperate yellow cards within the first 40 minutes, leaving Newcastle to play the remaining fifty minutes a man down.

Janmaat, who was also sent off against Leicester towards the final stages of the agonising 14/15 season will now sit out next weekend’s trip to Manchester when Newcastle take on Manchester United.

The Dutch right back was top of the fan’s wish list for United’s next captain as questions were raised over Coloccini’s commitment to the club last season, but with yesterday’s idiotic performance fresh in the memory; is he too naive to captain the side at this moment in time?


Season Preview

The new season is just hours away yet the end of Newcastle’s last campaign Is still fresh in memory. It seems like only yesterday the sighs of relief rang around St James’ Park following a 2-0 win over West Ham United and confirmation of our status as a Premier League club for another year.

This season is as unpredictable as ever, but fans remain cautiously hopeful that this season might spell the start of a new era for Newcastle United.
The off-season’s biggest news was of course the announcement of new Head Coach Steve McClaren. The former FC Twente and England man reportedly rejected the opportunity to take over at the club following Alan Pardew’s departure in January, but finds himself at the helm for the new season after being sacked by Derby.
McClaren has had a rollercoaster career so far as a coach. Early on he was lauded as one of the most tactically astute coaches in football at Manchester United, then led Middlesbrough to a league cup triumph and a UEFA Cup final. However after failing to qualify for Euro 2008 with England McClaren’s career has been a case of rebuilding his reputation.
Bar a successful spell at FC Twente McClaren has struggled to maintain a winning formula, but McClaren’s focus on attacking flair, high tempo and player development gives fans hope of exciting football at least.
We have also seen 4 new faces through the door this transfer window. Georginio Wijnaldum (£14m from PSV), Aleksander Mitrovic (£13m from Anderlect), Chancel Mbemba (£8m from Anderlect) and Ivan Toney (undisclosed from Northampton Town).
Most fans agree that 2 or 3 more players are needed. Newcastle have only added one player to the defence that leaked 63 goals in the league last season and this is still a big cause for concern moving into this year. Chancel Mbemba looks to be a welcome addition, but our defence is a year older and still needs serious work.

The general consensus is that one defender and one other striker is a must before the transfer window closes.
However most fans remain optimistic about out our new attacking options this year. Wijnaldum looks able to fill the Cabaye shaped gap of a creative goal scoring midfielder, Mitrovic provides a strong option up front and the returning De Jong some composure in the final third.

Another area to be positive this season is in player development. One valid criticism of Alan Pardew was that no player really improved under his watch. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Davide Santon, Sylvain Marveux and Hatem Ben Arfa are just a few of a long list of players who arrived with great potential but dwindled away. This season you would expect the likes of Rolando Aarons, Ayoze Perez, Massadio Haidara and the new signings to grow under the new management. The idea of no more players being ‘Pardewed’ is a great thought, and I would hope the squad will slowly improve over time instead of getting worse.

It is another year of uncertainty but fans remain cautiously optimistic that Steve McClaren can assemble an exciting side. There seems to be a real effort in pre-season to overhaul the playing style and look to create as many opportunities as possible. One thing is a certainty, we can only improve from last year’s shambles.

This season could be the turning point for the club and for Mike Ashley, who have shown signs of intent and ambition for the first time since our return to the Premier League. A comfortable mid-table finish and a genuine attempt to win a cup would satisfy most fans, and would go a long way in building the future of Newcastle United.
The first game of the season sees Southampton visit St James’ park on Sunday. The Saints look to be one of the toughest teams this season and are also the same side who have knocked 10 goals past Newcastle in the past 3 meetings. After an unremarkable pre-season, Sunday should give fans a real indicator on how we have progressed over the past few months.
Howay the lads!