Football Features

“They can be bullies” – Five things learned as Man Utd come from behind to beat Newcastle

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:35, 26 December 2019

Manchester United returned to winning ways with a resounding 4-1 victory over Newcastle United.

Newcastle took the lead through Matty Longstaff but Man Utd had turned things around before half-time with goals from Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford.

Martial got another just after half-time to cement the win, moving Man Utd up to seventh.

Here are five things we learned from the Boxing Day clash:

1. Mason Greenwood joins exclusive Man Utd club

What a season Mason Greenwood is having.

The teenager made his Manchester United first-team debut in March 2019, coming off the bench in their 3-1 away win over Paris Saint-Germain with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team still chasing the aggregate victory. But any hopes of an extended period in the squad were quickly dampened with Greenwood making just three more experiences.

However, 2019/20 has truly been Greenwood’s breakthrough season. Still being made to wait in the Premier League, Greenwood got his first senior Man Utd goal in a 1-0 win over Astana in the first Europa League game of the season and has since added a further three in that competition.

Man Utd fans will be happiest, though, with his progress in the Premier League. The 18-year-old’s first 11 Premier League games of the season saw him play just 138 minutes in substitute appearances, averaging 12 per match, although he did score in a 3-3 draw with Sheffield United.

He got his first league start of the season in Man Utd’s 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur and scored in a 1-1 draw with Everton at Old Trafford, but his second start against Newcastle will be one to remember. Putting Man Utd 2-1 ahead, Greenwood became just the fourth teenager to score in consecutive Premier League home games for the club, joining Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooeny and Federico Macheda.

It also took him to eight goals in total this season across all competitions, with only Jadon Sancho managing more among teenagers from Europe’s top five leagues.

2. Newcastle’s Boxing Day woes

Newcastle went into Boxing Day’s game level on points with Man Utd and were enjoying a decent run of form. Their past five games had brought 10 points, with three wins and a draw accompanied by a narrow defeat to Burnley.

They looked like they were going to continue that run when Matty Longstaff put them ahead in the 17th minute, confidently beating David de Gea with a cool finish. There was still a long time to go, but Newcastle were on their way a first top-flight double over Man Utd since 1938 to go above the Red Devils.

But then Newcastle fell apart and, in fact, continued their poor record on Boxing Day. While Man Utd were rampant, three of their four goals involved Newcastle mistakes.

The first was poor goalkeeping from the usually-reliable Martin Dubravka who allowed Martial’s equaliser to squeeze in at his near post, despite looking like it had things covered. Fabian Schar then gave the ball away in his own half for Greenwood to give Man Utd the lead before Sean Longstaff set up Martial for his second with a defence-splitting pass – just for the wrong team.

This is something Newcastle fans are becoming far too familiar with, having lost their past five league Boxing Day games by an aggregate score of 2-13, since beating Stoke City 5-1 in 2013. They have now lost 14 in total in the Premier League on Boxing Day, more than any other side.

Now, rather than potentially moving further away from the relegation zone even with a draw, they are in danger of slowing slipping back as other results at the bottom of the table went against them. They’re still not the worst-placed team, but a poor run could see them drop further.

3. Marcus Rashford continues great personal season

While there have been many ups and downs for Man Utd this season, one positive has been the form of Marcus Rashford. Before the season kicked off, there wasn’t much optimism surrounding Man Utd’s attacking line, following the sale of Romelu Lukaku.

Rashford, Greenwood and Martial were the three men expected to fill the void left by the Belgian; two players who had spent most of their Man Utd career playing on the wings to accomodate Lukaku and an unproven teenager.

There was some reason for the fears, with Rashford having never scored more than 10 Premier League goals in a single season – a personal record he set last year.

But Rashford has broken that record with aplomb scoring his 11th in the win over Newcastle, his 19th Premier League appearance of the season. And it was another typical Rashford appearance, as he was constantly on the move from the wide areas and through the middle of the pitch.

Rashford also looked to cause problems from a deeper position in the first half when Man Utd were lacking that creativity – which they gained with Paul Pogba’s arrival at half-time. The Englishman was given a well-earned rest with just under half an hour left as the game was won, ready to get going again this weekend.

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4. Lack of goalscorers hurts Newcastle again

Although there have been positives surrounding Newcastle’s season, particularly of late, but the one negative remains their struggles in front of goal. And it’s something that came back to bite them once more.

Newcastle have scored 19 goals in their 19 Premier League games this season, with only struggling Watford (12) managing fewer than them at the halfway point. These goals have been spread across 11 players which shows they aren’t reliant on just one player, but the lack of contribution from their forwards is startling.

Jonjo Shelvey leads the way for Newcastle with five goals, followed by four players on two each. Three of these are defenders in Federico Fernandez, Jetro Willems and Ciaran Clark while Matty Longstaff has got his two against Man Utd. Newcastle’s recognised forwards have combined for three goals, with Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron all managing just one each. Dwight Gayle, Andy Carroll, Christian Atsu and Yoshinori Muto are yet to score.

And although they did take the lead at Old Trafford, Newcastle were hurt by the poor form of their strikers. Gayle had the perfect opportunity to give Newcastle the lead before Matty Longstaff did, blazing the ball over the bar when one-on-one with David de Gea. That was his only shot of the game and no Newcastle player managed more than one, with only Matty Longstaff and Joelinton hitting the target.

Something needs to change and it may take some action in the January transfer window to breed that.

5. Man Utd show they can be the bullies

One of the weirdest things about Man Utd’s season has been their results. The Red Devils have beaten Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur while drawing against Arsenal and Liverpool.

Before Boxing Day’s game, Man Utd had played 10 matches against teams starting below them in the Premier League table, winning just once. That was a 3-1 win over Norwich City which was also the only game of Man Utd’s past 17 in the Premier League that they had won when enjoying more possession than their opponents.

Although level on points, Newcastle went into the game against Man Utd lower than their opponents and looked to add to the Red Devils’ misery. But in going ahead they leapfrogged Man Utd and something clicked.

Equalising through Martial, Man Utd were ruthless in attack, smelling fear in the Newcastle defenders. They stepped up their game and never gave their opponents a moment’s rest with the attacking trio of Martial, Greenwood and Rashford in fine form.

Even though they did not score past the 51st minute, Man Utd continued to go for goal and had their chances to build up their goal difference. With a second win against a team below them at the start of the game under their belt, Man Utd need to ensure the build on the win especially with their upcoming fixtures.

Burnley, Arsenal and Norwich await in the next three Premier League games for Solskjaer’s men, all of whom are currently below Man Utd in the table before a clash at Anfield with Liverpool.