‘Underdog football’ is the latest plan of Ten Hag to fall flat after Newcastle’s defeat

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As the players finished their handshakes and went back to their half ahead of their familiar faces Local Hero the dip from the public speech subsided briefly, before starting up again. A turnaround was just what was to come, with Newcastle and Manchester United reminding us what they are all about.

Towards the end of normal time in a thoroughly one-sided game, center Antony’s shot deflected in against Harry Maguire (who was mercifully offside for the home side) briefly threatened to threaten the Geordies with a lack of ability to play to kill an occasion – the same. a trait that had robbed them of three points against an ailing 10-man Liverpool at the end of August. But anything other than a home win would be a robbery of the moonlight.

Related: Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon punishes a tired Manchester United

It was a great shock when the visitors came here a point and a place ahead of their hosts ahead of the kick-off, given the mood around the respective teams. The goal differences – Newcastle’s plus-17 to United’s nil – told a different story on the tape. Erik ten Hag’s side should be unable to achieve ambition given their opponents’ stretched resources. Only two minutes had passed when it seemed that Bruno Guimarāes was shooting a goal towards the bench, putting their hearts in their mouths again.

The thousands are quickly piling up on Newcastle’s creaking squad. Eddie Howe’s XI, like all the best teams, is very self-selecting, but in this case mainly because of the paucity of current options. Since, not to mention their Herculean effort in Paris on Tuesday, it was noticeable that Newcastle were more athletic, more positive, hungrier from the outside. Ten Hag players may have arrived here via a nearly three-hour coach journey when weather forced them to cancel their flight, but Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola barely took the 10-hour bus ride to Milan.

Their only real lead came just after the 10-minute mark, when Bruno Fernandes’ dagger pass found Alejandro Garnacho, who shot more or less straight at Nick Pope. It reminded us, as were the best bits of Wednesday night’s helter-skelter ride at Galatasaray, that United are usually at their best when the captain writes the script, as was the case almost without interruption in the series. almost five years since he arrived from Sporting.

Next to him was Kobbie Mainoo, making his second straight Premier League start in a challenging second home trip away from home, again looking neat and tidy at the start, and it was his touch that allowed Fernandes to tackle Garnacho. But he was given little chance to shine after that, Fernandes and Scott McTominay were overwhelmed by the intensity of Guimarāes, Joelinton and Newcastle’s own excellent midfielder Lewis Miley.

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes reacts after the Premier League win against Newcastle.

Bruno Fernandes failed to make any impact in Manchester United’s midfield against Newcastle. Photo: Peter Powell/GCC

With that said United defended strongly in the situation that allowed Maguire, for example, to look at his best. There were close calls, most notably Kieran Trippier’s delicate diving free-kick to hit the crossbar with André Onana in attendance, but Newcastle had to think and plan their way, even when they were in the lead. That was exactly his clever winning goal, scored by Anthony Gordon after combining Guimarāes and Trippier.

This was, as Julian Nagelsmann might say, “beautiful football” from the visitors, with ambition perhaps synonymous with the brand but reluctantly, reluctantly accepted, at the moment, not being the order of the day. at Old Trafford. United’s abysmal position was such that Fernandes could barely bring himself to complain to Robert Jones when referee Fabian Schär was booked for cynically tripping him on the halfway line, snuffing out a potential counter-attack. early in the second half (although he made up for it later when a Swiss defender caught him with high studs on his left foot).

This is enough of Ten Hag’s United tenure. To park high hopes and great ideals until at least some of the functionality could be achieved, “until this was stuck, until that was stuck,” as Gil Scott-Heron once sang. Fernandes has often sidestepped the need for a collective strategy but when he fails, there is little left. Marcus Rashford worked wretchedly and Garnacho looked like the player Hakim Ziyech was overcoming shortly before the end of his Wednesday night in Istanbul, rather than the one who started it with a fine goal.

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Meanwhile, Guimarāes pushed out to the halfway line as Newcastle defended deep in stoppage time, still waving his arms and encouraging the crowd to join him as he went, as he does often. If only Ten Hag’s men were such a rabble rouser. Mag Uidhir had partnered with Rasmus Højlund up front, the last refuge of the ideas that were out of sight. Even if this game would change both United’s places in the table, this could not make their different directions any clearer.

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