After a dismal display in Wales last week, during which his side fell to Swansea 2-0, Steve McClaren’s Newcastle United produced a resilient display to leave Old Trafford with a point in Saturday’s lunch time kick-off with Manchester United.
After a near-suicidal opening 20 minutes, the Magpies grew into the game and gave the Red Devils something to think about on the counter attack whilst remaining dogged in the pursuit of a point.
In reality, Louis van Gaal’s men had ample chances to emerge the victors, but while Newcastle brought many characteristics to the party that were sadly missing the week before, for all the resilience and commitment on display, it wasn’t a shutout.
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Newcastle, though, can’t afford to get carried away with stopping a United front-line currently bereft of potency – the defence still requires considerable investment and the protection in front of it isn’t the immovable wall that compliments the managers set-up.
Make no mistake, Steven Taylor and captain Fabricio Coloccini had their best day in a black and white shirt in recent memory. The centre-halves put their body on the line and defended valiantly to protect the point they started with.
In the first 20 minutes though, they were run ragged and cut open at will. With respect to Coloccini, his two prior games did nothing for his declining reputation either.
A high-profile point away at such a historical landmark in the Premier League should do wonders for morale on the pitch and in the stands, but it shouldn’t blind the management into believing the necessary defensive quality already resides in their ranks.
Following Saturday’s result, McClaren said: “I thought Coloccini and Taylor were excellent.
"You have to defend well and they were immaculate, they kept us in the game the first 20 minutes and in the last 10 minutes.”
The last 10 minutes? Sure. The first twenty? Come on now, Steve.
United had 20 efforts at goal during their torrential offense on Saturday and eight on those were on target, compared to Newcastle’s grand total of zero.
Tim Krul once again displayed why he has the ability to guard the sticks for a top four club, particularly with his late save when faced one-on-one with Javier Hernandez – a usually ruthless finisher by all accounts.
The Dutchmen’s heroics only serves to remind us that United were able to create opportunities and penetrate without being anywhere near their best. As mentioned earlier, it wasn’t the imperious shutout that McClaren’s comments allude to.
Only a hairs length separated Wayne Rooney from being onside and released with ease through the heart of Newcastle's defence during the apparently 'rock-solid' opening 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, it was a good point with encouraging signs compared to the previous away day, but it should be noted the game suited the Toon’s outlook too - they came for a point and the onus was on a United side to force proceedings.
With a week left in the transfer window, Newcastle fans should be hoping McClaren can see which had a greater effect on Saturday’’s result - Newcastle’s battling defence or United’s stuttering front line.