“David Moyes is kidding himself if he thinks he has the luxury of a ‘transitional period!’”—————————————————————————–Ron Atkinson
Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United
The last time Manchester United lost at home to Newcastle United, it was 1972 and Frank O’Farrell was the manager. Following Wednesday’s first home loss to Everton in 21 years, the talk is no longer about coming back and making an April smash-and-grab to steal a way back into the top four. Now the talk is about resignation, pride and survival and the probability of blooding more youth players before the January transfer window opens up its big greedy maw.
Ask Paddy Crerand and he’ll tell you. Frank O’Farell was the nicest man to ever manage United. Indeed, when it dawned on Sir Matt Busby what an old school, sweet gentleman O’Farrell was–despite all his previous success in the lower divisions and a relatively big contract–an utterly ruthless stepped in after eighteen months(although it seemed much shorter at the time!), just as he also had with O’Farrell’s predecessor, Wilf McGuinness, and gave him the heave-ho. It really is unlikely that Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill would advise the Glazers to act quickly to nip this problem in the bud before it goes into free fall, but this utter, gutless capitulation to Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United–a team with an ongoing soap-opera of its very own–will surely have the heavy hitters on the club’s board burning each others ears off between Salford and Tampa.
Shockingly still and silent in the first half, a mute Stretford End certainly communicated something; but, the only sound that could be heard was of the Magpie choir mocking the locals. Toothless without Wayne Rooney, United, led by a bandaged Robin Van Persie played collectively like one overweight mierda-faced drunk. In the first half they produced a single soft shot from Phil Jones on Tim Krull’s goal. Only Little Boy Red, Adnan Januzaj, produced anything at all resembling a threat to a disdainful Newcastle midfield without even coming within the vicinity of their penalty area. United’s midfield pairing of Phil Jones and Tom Cleverly, after taking note of the disdainful manner in which referee André Marriner treated their appeals for justice after repeatedly being rough-housed by Cheik Tioté and the cheeky, grinning Vernon Anita pretty much gave up the ghost early. Indeed, like a puppy resigned to being whipped by his master’s extension cord, Tom Cleverley has these days consistently become any opponents twelfth man.
The truth is that Newcastle were not really that much of a better team during a dire, dull first half. They were precise and made no mistakes, yet a far cry from the buccaneering Everton side the club faced three days before or the schizophrenic Spurs side we tested a week ago. United were only truly found out badly when Loïc Rémy caught a tired Patrice Evra napping with a brilliant curving pass to a marauding Mathieu Debuchy which forced a fantastic reflex save from David de Gea in injury time.
Moyes must have raised his voice at half-time because the Red Devils upped their tempo for the first ten minutes of the second half. Krul made a save off Hernández after he connected to a superb Van Persie diagonal ball. United were a bit unlucky that Evra’s set-piece header from a Nani cross was blocked by Anita at the far post, maybe with his arm. Minus Wayne Rooney and with Robin Van Persie very much in a subdued mood, United were toothless.
Then things finally fell apart an hour in when Newcastle nicked the lead. Predictably, it was Patrice Evra, now a desiccated husk of a defender, incapable of coping with the run from anyone capable of shifting gears, who cost us dear again. Having picked off another dithered moment of Cleverley indecision, the superb Moussa Sissoko waggled his tongue as he zipped past Evra, zig-zagging beautifully into open before tapping a sweet cut-back for Cabaye. Cabaye–a superb General for the French national team, back from the brink of elimination in the World Cup– has an elegant eye for goal. His perfectly hit angled shot was definitely headed toward goal with David De Gea diving for it, when Vidic’s heel inadvertently caught it and gave it just a tad more force on its way into the net. If any one player in the Premier League would suit our style of play, it’s Cabaye.
David Moyes’ frustrated response was to take off Nani and a clueless Cleverley for Wilfried Zaha and Anderson, clearly bamboozling anybody who’s been observing his lack of faith in the latter two over the first quarter of the season. For good measure he also sent on Antonio Valencia, replacing Rafael da Silva. Completely unfazed, the Magpies boss Alan Pardew brought on Hatem Ben-Arfa, a pesky master of ball retention and tricky wing play who upped their energy ante even higher so that Newcastle’s confidence level peaked as they continued to pass the ball around confidently, whle Cheik Tioté repeatedly dispossessed any United player willing to clash with him.
Worse, as the clock ticked down and possession become more and more essential with every second that passed, why did Anderson and Januzaj keep giving away the ball? And call me old-fashioned, but with so much at stake, doesn’t it seem like maybe Moyies might have been screaming at them? Too little too late, once again.
It is acceptable for Moyes to confess that he is thus far way out of his depth when it comes to swimming with the big boys at the deep end of the pool. A certain amount of cleaning up should have been done by Sir Alex Ferguson before he gave his office keys to the secretary, to be sure. Unable or unwilling to let go the likes of Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand, both of whom were past what should have been their sell-by dates two seasons ago, the old more ruthless Fergie, it seems, was already fading. Anyway, someone was somehow able to convince Moyes that he needed them. Additionally, the triple conundrum which are Nani , Young and Anderson fooled us fans for years and also received the benefit of the doubt from the new boss. Additionally, the weird shenanigans concerning Zaha on Moyes’ part carried on into this afternoon when he was introduced late for Nani. If Moyes is willing to play him, why would he have made the statement a few weeks back that the lad was six months away from being ready for playing in the Premiership? What does that do for his confidence? It’s a sad, rotten shame that so much August dithering will not only lead to some painful bloodletting and bitterness next month as the players in question are allowed to leave for fees way below their market value or in highly speculative swap moves.
At any rate, with January looming, speculation on what Moyes will do with the line-up against Shakhtar and Aston Villa ought to be interesting. Considering Fabio Da Silva over the defensively toxic Patrice Evra at the left-back position would be a start. Trying out his twin Rafael in midfield next to Fellaini or Jones couldn’t hurt, either.