Barclays Premier League, Gameweek 3, Old Trafford: Manchester United could only earn a point in a 0-0 draw against a spirited Newcastle United led by Tim Krul as United’s lack of options upfront were exposed yet again!
Bastian gets his first competitive start
After a successful Champions League qualifier triumph against Club Brugge during midweek, the Red Devils were back in action hoping to replicate the strong attacking intent displayed against the Belgium side. There was expectation that United would start with the same midweek line-up, and all the pre-match analysis focused around captain Wayne Rooney’s misery in front of goal.
There was a hint of disappointment among the United fans as Spanish and Barcelona midfielder Pedro’s transfer to Chelsea a few days back. Despite reports of Van Gaal’s decision to opt against signing the attacking midfielder, failing to confirm the transfer after being linked to getting their man all summer wasn’t a very good feeling. Hence the news of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s first United start got the fans on their toes! He replaced Michael Carrick to start alongside Morgan Schneiderlin as the only change in the line-up. Steve Mclaren decided to give Mitrovic a first start with Obertan, Wijnaldum and Perez all starting in a line-up showing intent.
The game gut off to a flying start as Adnan Januzaj’s pass allowed Rooney to break free from the Newcastle back four and found himself clear with only Tim Krul to beat, and struck the ball past the Dutch keeper only for the linesman to controversially rule him offside. The referee upon having a re-look would realize that Rooney was just about in line with the Newcastle defence as the pass came in. The bright start from the hosts continued as in the 17th minute, Juan Mata tested Tim Krul again with a low shot from a probing Luke Shaw cross which the shot-stopper saved well diving low to his left.
Newcastle somehow managed to weather the United storm and created their first chance involving new boy Aleksandar Mitrovic- signed from Greek side Anderlecht. 23 minute into the game, the Serbian striker’s powerful looping header from a Chancel Mbemba ricocheted off the crossbar. Very soon, the two teams headed for the tunnel with Manchester United having a massive 60% possession and 9 shots on goal!
Frustration begins to loom large
The second half began in the same tempo as the first, with United continuing to attempt to put the heat on Steve Mclaren’s spirited men. Van Gaal attempted a change to switch things around with Carrick replacing Schweinsteiger and Chicharito coming in place of Adnan Januzaj.
The Mexican striker’s introduction renewed some lost fizz in the United attack. Chris Smalling was unlucky not to connect his header from a corner before Wayne Rooney got his first shot on target though without getting a goal. Juan Mata also got into action but volleyed over the bar from a cross down the left flank.
Manchester United’s best team move involved Schneiderlin’s lovely backheel which put Shaw through after the full-back cut in from the left wing, but Krul was there to block his shot. The Dutch goal-keeper once again proved why he was Van Gaal’s hero during the World Cup campaign with his best save of the match coming when Mata’s shot rebounded to put Chicharito through on goal, but an outstretched leg from the Dutch stopper kept the score goalless.
Deep into stoppage time there was almost a breakthrough from both sides, as United saw Chris Smalling’s header bounce against the Newcastle crossbar before Newcastle substitute Florian Thauvin going inches from turning home a cross from close range. Both chances came in the dying moments of a game filled with chances and eventually the match ended in a goalless tie.
All eyes on Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian should prove to be a shrewd signing by Louis Van Gaal as the German midfielder looked calm and composed in midfield, as his passing was safe and reliable. He was able to combine very effectively with Luke Shaw down the left side after a series of bright exchanges. The German utilized space quite effectively despite some resolute defending from the Magpies. The most important thing which would have please Van Gaal would have been his link up play with his midfield counterpart Morgan Schneriderlin.
The struggle continues for Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is without a goal for United since April 4, but it hasn’t all been his doing as he has been deserted with the lack of options for him to capitalize. United haven’t been consistent in attack with just three shots in the two league games. This game seems to have been better with 8 registered shots on target. Louis Van Gaal agreed in his post match comments about his team’s failure to not make the right options when in possession.
“We can be satisfied with the performance but not with the result – we were unlucky.”
“We did not make the right choices in the final third but we played fantastic as a team. I like these kind of games when we work like this, but not this result.”
Manchester United continued to shine in defence with them now failing to concede in 270 minutes of premier league football. Sergio Romero, in a relatively short period at the club earned a record to his name as he becomes the first goalkeeper since Arsenal’s David Ospina to keep a clean sheet in each of his first three Premier League games.
Man of the match – Fabricio Coloccini
It wasn’t a surprise as Fabricio Coloccini was awarded as the Man of the match after Newcastle displayed some heroic defending to earn a second point and a first clean sheet of the new campaign. The Newcastle captain led the line bravely to deny United a host of chances. This also happens to be the first point Newcastle have earned away from home in the league since February.
Manchester United would be thoroughly disappointed by their finishing and passing in the final third, something the team may regret as it was more a case of two points dropped than one point won!
The coming week sees Manchester United travel to Belgium to play the 2nd leg of their Champions League qualifier, firmly poised to qualify to the knockout stages. A positive result in Brugge would definitely offer much needed impetus in their quest to make some changes before the summer transfer window closes. Is this David De Gea’s last full week at Old Trafford and what are the options available upfront where United are definitely not at their strongest? Time will tell!