Newcastle were fairly well beaten 3-0 by a good and superior Manchester United side tonight at Old Trafford.
And while we were hardly ever in with a chance of winning this game, Chris Hughton can take some real positives out of this game tonight.
There was the expected commitment from the Newcastle players, and they held on for 32 minutes before conceding the first goal, but it was also apparent that reinforcements must be brought into the squad before the end of August.
Only then will Chris Hughton have any real chance of avoiding another blood and guts relegation season.
The lads look well organized, knew exactly what their jobs were, and seemed to be well coached – but were just not good enough – is a good way to sum up this game – not good enough against a team as good and polished as Manchester United were tonight.
The game got off to a fairly decent start for Newcastle and they held their own in the first 30 minutes, and keeping a clean sheet early was always going to be important.
And before Berbatov scored the first goal on 32 minutes Steve Harper hadn’t had a shot to save, but no doubt the Red Devils had the vast majority of possession and were starting to wear down the Magpies by their incessant attacking.
And the best chance of the first 30 minutes went to our own Andy Carroll who had a clear header after 10 minutes. Andy did all the hard work by alluding his defensive markers, but then headed the ball about two yards wide of the the left hand post, when it looked easier to score. If that had been a goal it could have altered the game.
But the inevitable goal came when Berbatov broke through down the right hand channel, and a sliding challenge from Enrique only teed the ball up for the Romanian, who made no mistake and smashed it past the helpless Harper.
And then after 41 minutes, as the Red Devils were becoming more and more dominant, Darren Fetcher made it two, when he beat Coloccini to a loose ball on the six yard box and whipped it past goalkeeper Harper.
2-0 and it looked like the game was well beyond the reach of the Magpies as the half time whistle blew, with Newcastle looking to be in for a possible hiding in the second half.
Newcastle had to play it very carefully in the final 45 minutes, as they tried to pull a goal back, but also couldn’t expose themselves too much at the back, otherwise the Red Devils would catch them short at the back, and put the game beyond all doubt.
Andy Carroll would have impressed watching managers as he caused all kinds of trouble for Jonny Evans in the air – especially in the second half – and won almost every ball in the air – so Andy is no one season wonder, but was impressive again tonight.
But against all the odds in the second half Newcastle had a decent half, and defended quite well, even though Manchester United were continuing to look polished, and moving forward all the time
The Magpies, to their credit, didn’t concede again until 5 minutes from the end of the match when Paul Scholes, the best player on the field, teed up his long term team-mate Ryan Giggs from the right, and the Welshman hit the ball with his left foot (what else?) beyond the diving Steve Harper to make it 3-0.
A number of good performances from the Newcastle players tonight, with Mike Williamson having a decent game at center-back, and Andy Carroll full of commitment and endeavor up front.
Some of the performances of the Newcastle lads will please manager Chris Hughton, and auger well for the future, but we are still short of real class.
That’s what we need if we are to be one of the better Premier League sides – which we are not right now – that was made abundantly clear tonight.
We said before the game we didn’t expect anything out of this game, and we are nowhere near the class of the Manchester Uniteds and Chelseas of this world.
But these are not the games that will make or break our season, it’s against the bottom 10 teams that we’ll need to pick up some points and our season will depend on how we fare in those games.
All in all this was a decent performance from the lads, in what was always going to be a very tough first game against a very very good side.
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Manchester United: Van der Sar; O’Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Nani; Berbatov, Rooney.
Subs:Kuszczak, Rafael Da Silva, Smalling, Carrick, Giggs, Macheda, Hernandez.
Newcastle United: Steve Harper, James Perch, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Enrique, Wayne Routledge, Alan Smith, Joey Barton, Jonas Gutierrez, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll.
Subs: Ryan Taylor, Xisco, Shola Ameobi, Tim Krul, Haris Vuckic, Nile Ranger, James Tavernier.
Referee: C Foy