Football Features

“The Premier League’s worst United” – Five things learned as Solskjaer’s side lose at Newcastle

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:51, 6 October 2019

In a miserable afternoon of football, Newcastle United beat Manchester United 1-0 at St. James’ Park.

The match was low on attacking quality but was eventually lit up by a really special goal from a local hero. What did we learn?

1. Super Longstaff Bros.

If you visited a psychic before this match and there were told that a Newcastle midfielder named Longstaff would be the most dominant and exciting midfielder on the pitch, that he would drive the ball forward nicely and then open the scoring with a delightful long-range strike, you’d probably think “yeah, I can see Sean Longstaff doing that.”

Except it was his younger brother Matty Longstaff who did the damage to the Red Devils. Not content to humiliate Man United by fielding Sean Longstaff and the Geordie putting in the kind of performance that showed exactly why the Red Devils wanted him so badly this summer, Steve Bruce handed his teenage brother a Premier League debut and both brothers ran the show together.

Matty was the more exciting, coming close to opening the scoring in the first-half before actually doing so in the second period. Meanwhile, Sean was quietly and simply great, dominating midfield, keeping things ticking over for his side and even creating a team-high four chances. All in all, the Super Longstaff Bros. showed that whilst they both have the capability to do more than just play for Newcastle, they are more than able of playing superbly for their hometown club.

2. The Worst United

For the longest time, whenever you said “United” that was taken to refer to Manchester United. Obviously people in Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle may have argued differently, but the Red Devils had such an enormous profile that no one could really argue with the presumption. Well, now in 2019/20, one could genuinely make the case that they are the worst United in the division.

West Ham are clearly the best, loaded up with genuine attacking talent and – despite their recent set-back against Crystal Palace – are a fun and progressive side to watch. Sheffield United are short in name brand recognition and objective quality but are very, very long on tactical organisation and structure. They’re a wonderful side to watch, like an orchestra moving in perfect harmony.

That left Newcastle United, an absolute shambles of a side, the lowest scoring side in the Premier League, standing in Manchester United’s way as the worst United. And, well, in this face-off of the damned Uniteds, who came out on top? Bruce’s boys. And that confirms it: Manchester United are the worst United in the Premier League.

3. Bruce goes back To Benitez’s Blueprint

Newcastle came into today having not won in their last five games, losing three of those games – including their previous match away to Leicester. The Foxes tore the Magpies to pieces, winning 5-0, and goodness me how would this Newcastle side get through the season?

Well, Bruce shed his ego and returned to the system that Rafa Benitez used when at the club. Five men at the back, a rock-solid defence and playing intensely on the break. That’s how Newcastle lined up against Man United and it was a supremely effective tactic. It was so effective, in fact, that it allowed Bruce to pick up his first-ever win as a manager against Man United. 21 years of football management and in 21 attempts he had never gotten one over his old club, until now, thanks to Benitez’s blueprint.

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4. You’ll never win anything with (these) kids

Back in 1996 Alan Hansen famously declared “you’ll never win anything with kids” about Man United’s Class of ’92. That turned out to be nonsense, of course, but it created this weird sort of sensation around Man United where people just assumed that because those lads turned out great that Man United’s youth academy was top-class.

Now, Man United’s youth academy is certainly good, but top-class? With the exception of Mason Greenwood and the genuinely excellent Axel Tuanzebe, are any of the youngsters being blooded now by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer anywhere near the youngsters being played by the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea?

Alright perhaps the Blues’ boys are older and further along, but Arsenal are full of untested youth who are constantly performing when called on. For the most part, the Man United boys just aren’t on that level – so as much as it’s nice to praise Solskjaer for playing the kids perhaps we should acknowledge that the kids aren’t really all that.

5. NOle Gunnar Solskjaer

Yes, Man United didn’t sign enough attacking players in the summer. For all their talk of revolution they are still three or four top-quality players (a striker, a winger or a No. 10, and a proper defensive midfielder) away from being good side. Their defence is superb, no doubt about that. Harry Maguire is solid, Tuanzebe is a revelation, Victor Lindelof is mostly good, but that’s it.

As a unit, their defence is great, sure, but even a great defence cracks when put under constant pressure – and when the attack cannot create chances and goals that is exactly what happens. Man United’s defence can’t keep on bailing out their miserable midfield and awful attack (especially without Aaron Wan-Bissaka).

But right now that’s what Solskjaer is asking them to do. It’s easy to blame Ed Woodward, and he is definitely a big reason why Man United are a mess, but Solskjaer is simply not making the most of the talent at his disposal. Yes, injuries have decimated his squad, but for an XI containing Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford to manage just one shot on target against a demotivated Newcastle is staggering.

It’s not that Solskjaer is a terrible manager, but right now he is doing a fantastic impression of one. Obviously he’s been handed a bad hand at Old Trafford, but he has to do better with the cards that he’s been dealt or he will soon find himself tossed out of the game.

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