Manchester United stutter to a draw
Manchester United, having not played in 16 days, were expected to make light work of Newcastle United, who have only one win to their name all season.
However, this was far from the case. The Red Devils fell behind early thanks to a moment of brilliance from the mercurial Allan Saint Maximin, while the visiting side looked horribly disjointed, prompting two half time changes from Ralf Rangnick.
What a start for #NUFC👏
Allan Saint-Maximin gives Newcastle the lead in the seventh minute 🎯
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 27, 2021
However, the second half was little better. Newcastle could and should have doubled their advantage, but found themselves on level terms with 20 minutes to go after Edinson Cavani bundled home the ball following a blocked cross from Diogo Dalot.
And, with injuries to both Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson forcing Newcastle into changes, they were ultimately happy to settle for a point in the grand scheme of things.
For Manchester United, however, it was a night to forget.
Here are 3 things 101 picked out from the game
1. Manchester United cannot afford to let Cavani leave
There has been plenty of speculation about Edinson Cavani departing the club in January, with Barcelona thought to be interested.
Letting him go, however, would be suicidal from Manchester United.
Although he only played 45 minutes for the Red Devils, he was comfortably their best player on the pitch, missing one good chance before getting the goal to drag his side back into the game.
Newcastle 1-1 Manchester United (Cavani, 71)
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 27, 2021
A very effective presser, something that his teammates in the forward line are not, he embodies what Rangnick is looking to demand from his forwards, and consistently finds the right position to be in even if he is less clinical than others at the club.
But on what he brings to the side, he cannot be let go before his contract runs out in the summer.
2. Work needs to be done at Carrington
Manchester United had not played a game of football in 16 days. Judging by the first half, however, it looked as if the players in the starting XI had not known each other more than 16 days.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 27, 2021
Deployed in the 4-2-2-2 Rangnick prefers, there was no cohesion whatsoever, and the senior players let the side down. Cristiano Ronaldo cut a folorn figure, Raphael Varane produced a performance littered with errors, while Marcus Rashford had one of his worst outings in a Manchester United shirt.
And while there will almost certainly be additions come the January transfer window, the squad that they have should be more than good enough to challenge for the Champions league places, and even the title, rather than scraping results against bottom sides Newcastle United and Norwich, as they have in the last two games.
It is very much back to the drawing board, and the training pitch, for the Red Devils.
3. Midfield reinforcements are desperately needed
Even before Fred was substituted at half time, it was clear that midfield was a key problem area.
Fred and Scott McTominay are both passable options, but are not good enough to start every week for a side of the calibre of Manchester United.
In the first half vs Newcastle, Fred ranked first or joint-first among players on the pitch for:
🔺successful passes (33)
🔺ball recoveries (7)
🔺chances created (2)
A first half of few positives. 😤 pic.twitter.com/npkuo08vpN
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 27, 2021
Newcastle exploited this, forcing the Manchester United centre backs to have more time on the ball and pressuring them, forcing them into mistakes such as the one that led to the opening goal.
And while it is tonight’s opposition that are expected to spend big come the new year, nn the evidence of this clash alone, it is clear that links to the likes of Amadou Haidara and Boubacar Kamara are both sensible and needed for Manchester United too.
Fresh blood in the squad is a must in the January window if the Red Devils want to sustain a charge for the final Champions League spot, which would in turn allow the more creative players in the side more freedom.
Will there be movement in the market this January?
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|6||West Ham United||18||6||28|
|9||Brighton & Hove Albion||17||-1||23|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||15|
|Jota, Diogo||Liverpool FC||10|
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City||9|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur||8|
|Smith-Rowe, Emile||Arsenal FC||8|
|Dennis, Emmanuel||Watford FC||7|
|Mount, Mason||Chelsea FC||7|
|Antonio, Michail||West Ham United||7|
|Ronaldo, Cristiano||Manchester United||7|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City||7|
|Mane, Sadio||Liverpool FC||7|
|Silva, Bernardo||Manchester City||7|
|Maupay, Neal||Brighton & Hove Albion||7|
|Gallagher, Conor||Crystal Palace||6|
|Wilson, Callum||Newcastle United||6|
|Mahrez, Riyad||Manchester City||5|
|Saka, Bukayo||Arsenal FC||5|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United||5|
|Player||Team||Red Cards||Yellow Cards|
|Dennis, Emmanuel||Watford FC||0||6|
|Laporte, Aymeric||Manchester City||1||5|
|Neves, Ruben||Wolverhampton Wanderers||0||6|
|Salisu, Mohammed||Southampton FC||0||6|
|James, Reece||Chelsea FC||1||4|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United||0||5|
|Pogba, Paul||Manchester United||1||4|
|Cancelo, Joao||Manchester City||0||5|
|Robertson, Andy||Liverpool FC||1||4|
|Canos, Sergi||Brentford FC||0||5|
|Rice, Declan||West Ham United||0||5|
|Ritchie, Matt||Newcastle United||0||5|
|Westwood, Ashley||Burnley FC||0||5|
|Tarkowski, James||Burnley FC||0||5|
|Manquillo, Javi||Newcastle United||0||5|
|Norgaard, Christian||Brentford FC||0||5|
|Mings, Tyrone||Aston Villa||0||5|
|Duffy, Shane||Brighton & Hove Albion||0||5|
|Lascelles, Jamaal||Newcastle United||0||5|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||8|
|Alexander-Arnold, Trent||Liverpool FC||8|
|Jesus, Gabriel||Manchester City||7|
|Pogba, Paul||Manchester United||7|
|Dennis, Emmanuel||Watford FC||5|
|James, Reece||Chelsea FC||5|
|Bowen, Jarrod||West Ham United||5|
|Kovacic, Mateo||Chelsea FC||5|
|Cancelo, Joao||Manchester City||5|
|Robertson, Andy||Liverpool FC||5|
|Mount, Mason||Chelsea FC||4|
|Mahrez, Riyad||Manchester City||4|
|Saka, Bukayo||Arsenal FC||4|
|Doucoure, Abdoulaye||Everton FC||4|
|Redmond, Nathan||Southampton FC||4|
|Antonio, Michail||West Ham United||3|
|Gallagher, Conor||Crystal Palace||3|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United||3|
|Maddison, James||Leicester City||3|
|Gundogan, Ilkay||Manchester City||3|