Manchester United vs. Newcastle United: 6 Things We Learned
Yohan Cabaye’s second-half strike was enough to earn Alan Pardew’s side their fifth win in six games, while the Red Devils suffered their second home defeat on the trot.
Though the headlines will be about the pressure on David Moyes and his team’s form, the Magpies thoroughly deserved the victory and controlled proceedings for long spells.
So as the Toon celebrate an historic triumph, we look at six things that were learned at Old Trafford.
Cheick Tiote Ran the Midfield
In what was perceived to be Manchester United’s weak spot, midfield enforcer Cheick Tiote turned in a commanding performance for Newcastle that was rightfully recognised with the man of the match award.
From the very first whistle the Ivorian broke up the home side’s play and starved them of time and space in the middle of the park.
Housed alongside Vurnon Anita, the 27-year-old dominated David Moyes’ men and stuck to his task manfully, allowing the likes of Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko to get forward.
His form was questionable last season, but his display on Saturday suggests the former FC Twente man is back to his very best.
Robin Van Persie Looked Short of Fitness
There’s no doubt that a fully fit Robin van Persie is one of the best forwards in world football, but against Newcastle United the Dutchman was subdued on his return from injury.
Such was the pressure on Manchester United to get a result against the Geordies, David Moyes left his star striker on, but in hindsight he should have taken him off after the break.
Largely anonymous in the first-half, the former Arsenal man struggled to make an impact before having a goal correctly disallowed for offside in the second period.
With England international Danny Welbeck on the bench Moyes had options, but his decision to stick with van Persie for the entirety of the match backfired as his side struggled to create.
Alan Pardew Won the Tactical Battle
By naming Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita in central midfield, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew handed Yohan Cabaye the freedom to support his strikers and get forward himself.
And, ultimately, it was that freedom that allowed the Frenchman to score a memorable winning goal on 61 minutes.
When utilised in a midfield pairing, Cabaye often becomes bogged down with defensive duties that cancel out his creative instincts.
But at Manchester United on Saturday the former Lille man found the kind of space he craves, and he has Pardew to thank for that.
Manchester United Handed Newcastle Too Much Control
Following their defeat at Swansea City on Wednesday, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew cited his team’s inability to control the play as a contributing factor.
But at Old Trafford, the home side’s lack of urgency allowed their visitors enough time to take the fixture by the scruff of the neck and influence proceedings.
Down the right-hand side in particular, both Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy were handed an abundance of space and were a constant threat to the home team.
Manchester United have a reputation for starting games quickly and unsettling the opposition from the first whistle, but those qualities were sorely missed on Saturday.
Newcastle Looked Solid Defensively
In Mike Williamson, Newcastle have an honest, hard-working centre-back who knows his job and never tries to play beyond his capabilities.
And against Manchester United, the 30-year-old was immense.
Some crucial early blocks and clearances gave him the confidence he needed, and that confidence grew as the fixture wore on.
Alongside Fabricio Coloccini, who was also outstanding at the back for the Magpies, Williamson’s display underlined exactly why Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Steven Taylor cannot get a game at the moment.
Manchester United Lacked a Creative Spark
Unlike their opponents, who housed the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa in their ranks, Manchester United lacked creativity against Newcastle and rarely threatened the visitors.
Magpies keeper Tim Krul was only called upon a handful of times as David Moyes’ men failed to gather any real momentum in an attacking sense.
Much of that was down to the Toon’s pressing and harrying, but for a side that traditionally passes their way through teams, the Red Devils showed little going forward.
Aside from another promising performance from Adnan Januzaj, who was arguably their best player on the day, the Old Trafford outfit looked short of ideas and, subsequently, a shadow of their former selves.