Manchester United outplayed a weakened Newcastle side 4-0 at St James’s Park. What was more impressive than the result was the performance. With injuries and an eye on the Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich at mid week David Moyes employed a very different Manchester United starting XI.
The Game plan
The midfield of Fletcher and Fellani was meant to simply spray passes to the attacking triplet, which they both did very well. Fletcher in particular was exceptional as he completed 96% of his 68 passes. He was also good at reading the play as he completed 3 interceptions. On the other hand Fellani was also neat with his passing however yet again was sometimes bullied off the ball far too easily. He only won 2 aeriel duels throughout his game and was responsible for getting caught in possession a few times. It was yet again an uninspiring display from the Belgian. Thankfully for him, his more attacking team mates put in admirable performances to make up for his lackluster performance.
Valencia and Young on the right flank meant they were going to stretch the Newcastle back line, dragging them out of position. This would free up space for the two creative sparks of the team, Mata and Kagawa. The two tacticians enjoyed a fantastic afternoon as they unlocked Newcastle’s defense on numerous occasions.
Moyes’s game plan of stretching Newcastle down the right was dealt a severe blow as Young was taken off with an injury to his hand. The Manchester United medical team suspects torn ligaments, which could keep him out for a while. He was thus substituted for Januzaj, who was deployed in Young’s position. The youngster however tweaked Moyes’s plan. Instead of whipping in crosses all the time, he drifted in and became very much part of the attacking midfield and formed a very effective triplet alongside Kagawa and Mata.
Now lets move on to analyzing the four goals, all of which were spectacular in their own right.
The 1st Goal – A Thing Of Beauty
Fletcher won a free kick on the edge of the Newcastle box. It wasn’t a bad FK to give away from Newcastle’s perspective as Fletcher was making a bursting run through their defense.
I don’t mean to take anything away from the FK because it was inch perfect but Rob Elliot has to do better! He is allowing Mata to aim for a huge target. Look at all that space on the right hand side of the goal. Elliot has left far too much of the goal exposed and if Mata does get the shot on target, to the right, then Elliot will struggle to save it.
As I said earlier, by leaving the right hand side of the goal exposed Elliot finds it impossible to save Mata’s free kick. A great goal from the Spaniard but very poor positioning from the Newcastle keeper.
The 2nd Goal – A Present from A Poacher
A poor header from Coloccini results in Kagawa pouncing and gaining possession for Manchester United.
Kagawa athletically provides Chicharito, who himself is making a run, a perfectly weighted pass. Whilst Manchester United are on the verge of breaking down the Newcastle defense for the second time, Tiote seems relaxed. The physical defensive midfielder who is meant to be covering his back four is static and ball watching. He allows his man Mata to run past him. Mata incidentally scores!
What I like most about this phase of our attack is that we have runners who are willing to make attacking runs into space. Midfield runners, is something we have lacked and this support play from Kagawa and Mata is excellent as it provides Hernandez an option, other than shooting. He takes this option successfully. Incidentally, ball watching Tiote is no longer in the frame.
Chicharito shows his composure and his awareness by putting in a cross towards the midfield runners. It just escapes Kagawa and ends up in Mata’s feet who confidently puts it into the back of the net. It leaves Elliot and Coloccini distraught.
The 3rd Goal – Getting In Behind
A clever little engagement between Kagawa and Januzaj puts Shinji behind Newcastle’s defense
Remember in the begging of the post I talked about stretching Newcastle? This is exactly what happened here. Our players on the far side stretched Newcastle to their side and Januzaj and Buttner on the near side made the problem worse. This left a gaping hole in the Newcastle defense. Kagawa was in perfect position to exploit the gap and made an attacking run into the gap. Credit to Januzaj who played the perfect pass behind the Newcastle defense.
Hernandez, like any great poacher gets between the Newcastle players. He gives Kagawa a spot to cross the ball into and the Japanese play maker does not dissapoint with an accurate cross. Also note Januzaj is lurking in the back grounds waiting for any rebounds or misses. A greaat goal that exploited a stretched defense.
The 4th Goal – Back heels are Back
The fourth goal came from a bit of genius improvisation from Mata as he set Januzaj free.
Mata gets between the two Newcastle players and his arching run drags Williamson away from Coloccini. This leaves a gap between the two Newcastle CB’s which Januzaj exploits. He plays a quick pass into Mata and makes a quick run into the free space.
As Mata continues his run the gap between the two CB’s gets wider. Januzaj has more space to run into and Mata has more space to place his pass. His pass is a brilliant piece of improvisation that looked fantastic. Januzaj then coolly placed the ball into the keepers near side.
It was a resounding victory for Manchester United as they recorded their biggest win under David Moyes. The win will give them a lot of momentum and confidence going into the mid week clash with Bayern. Incidentally Bayern just recorded their first loss of the season in the Bundasliga. They lost 1-0. The momentum looks to be on our side, lets hope we can deliver.
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