Newcastle United vs. Manchester United: 6 Things We Learned
Manchester United went into this Saturday afternoon's game with the best away record in the league. Whilst they have been desperately disappointing at home—losing 1-0 to Newcastle there just a few months ago—they have been impressive on the road.
However, with first-choice strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie both missing due to injury, there was some concern ahead of kick-off as to whether United would maintain their away form. Antonio Valencia at right-back alongside Chris Smalling, who was playing his first game in a month after returning from injury, hardly filled fans with confidence.
Manchester United were the dominant side though, yet again, and were worthy of the 4-0 scoreline. But what did we learn?
Juan Mata Is Ready to Make His Mark
Juan Mata made a slow start to his Manchester United career. He showed flashes of the brilliance that had seen Chelsea fans vote him their player of the season for the previous two consecutive seasons, but he wasn't effective enough on a consistent basis. You could argue that was down to him playing out of position, though.
After scoring his first United goal last weekend against Aston Villa, he added a further two goals to his tally on Saturday, as well as another assist. Not just any assist either, but a clever backheel that Adnan Januzaj gladly put in to the back of the net.
Without having to compete with Wayne Rooney for space, Mata was given freedom to roam and do what he does best.
This was the sort of player United broke their transfer record for, and the fans will be hoping he can maintain this form.
Chicharito Is Too Good for the Bench
Javier Hernandez played for just 15 minutes last weekend but still managed to find the back of the net. However, after scoring, rather than enjoy his usual happy celebration, he stood fairly solemnly in front of the Stretford End.
After scoring this afternoon, his more customary smile returned, but it's easy to see why he would be unhappy. He has barely played this season, starting just five games, but he so often gets into the right places at the right time.
Nobody could begrudge him leaving the club in the summer to play more regularly elsewhere. But he's trying to add as many goals as he can before then.
Kagawa Needs More Playing Time
Shinji Kagawa created more chances than anyone on the pitch on Saturday after he was given a rare opportunity to show what he was capable of. The second goal came following some lovely play between him and Chicharito, resulting in a cross that Mata got on the end of.
The third goal saw Kagawa get his assist after running on to a great ball from Januzaj. He pulled the ball back perfectly, which meant the striker could put it in the back of the net with his first touch.
According to FourFourTwo, nobody completed more passes in the final third than Kagawa, and nobody attempted more passes either.
Moyes Can Play Good Football...When Forced to
Whilst United are crying out for a quality central midfielder, they are spoilt for choice when it comes to attacking options.
Instead of building his team around the talents of Mata and Kagawa, Moyes has been fairly rigid with his formation, trying instead to fit these players into the shape he would prefer to play.
Shoving Kagawa on the left or Mata on the right means they are limited in what they can do. However, when you play them—both of them, behind an out-and-out striker—it means they have the space to get in behind and work their magic. When you add Januzaj into the mix, a quick and confident attacking player, it's almost too good to be true.
However, Moyes was forced into playing all of these players because of the injuries to Rooney, Van Persie and, early on in the game, Ashley Young.
When all of the players are available, it's unlikely we will see Moyes throw caution to the wind and play such an attacking line-up.
Lindegaard Is at the Ready
Anders Lindegaard hadn't played in a single Premier League game this season before this afternoon, having made just one appearance in the Capital One Cup and one appearance in the FA Cup.
Following three months without football, you would imagine he would be fairly rusty, but on the occasions that he was called upon, he made great stops.
First, he tipped a Papiss Cisse header over the bar with his fingertips. In the second half, he made a save from point-blank range from the same player.
He's no David de Gea, but he is a great option to have.
Fellaini Is Still Not Cutting It
Marouane Fellaini had another disappointing afternoon in a Manchester United shirt. He looks a shadow of the player he was at Everton when he really grabbed games by the scruff of the neck. At United, he struggles to even win a header and get through a game without elbowing someone.
According to FourFourTwo, he won just two of his aerial duels and lost five, which is incredible for someone who is 6'4".
He was also guilty of throwing an arm in the face of Dan Gosling that went unpunished by the referee. He's becoming a bit of a liability now, but Moyes won't want to concede that.