12th February 1972. The great Joe Harvey led his Toon charges out at Old Trafford against a Red Devils side sporting a front line of Dennis Law and George Best. Our defence held firm and registered an assuring 2-0 win.
Nearly 40 years later we are still looking for that next league victory in their back yard. We did the double over them that year as well!
If we could do it against the above front line there is no reason we can’t do the same this weekend against the current Manchester United strikeforce of Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney. It’ll be a tough ask, but despite the lingering doubts about Danny Simpson and Ryan Taylor, our defence is arguably looking better than at any point in the last 20 plus years.
Anderson (knee) is a long term write off. Tom Cleverley (ankle) is still a month away following his injury against Everton last month. Michael Owen (thigh) will not be back until the New Year. Wayne Rooney (hip), Danny Wellbeck (fatigue) and Darron Gibson (ankle) are all expected to be fit and included in the match day squad. Nemanja Vidic is available. It seems to me that every time Ferguson leaves Rooney out for a game, he pulls the ‘he’s injured’ line in some sort of effort to throw off the next opponent. We were never going to fall for that!
Squad: De Gea, Lindegaard, Rafael, Smalling, Fabio, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Nani, Valencia, Gibson, Carrick, Fletcher, Park, Giggs, Young, Rooney, Hernandez, Berbatov.
Nile Ranger (boo!) and James Tavernier are out on loan. Mike Williamson (ankle) has been out since the end of August and we still don’t have a clue when he is due back. Sylvain Marveaux (groin) is out for the long haul. Danny Guthrie has a slight knock and is touch and go. Leon Best (groin) and Gabriel Obertan (toe) are both looking like making the squad, whilst Cheik Tiote (knee) is at least another week from returning. Hmm….
Squad: Krul, Elliot, Simpson, R Taylor, Santon, Ferguson, Coloccini, S Taylor, Perch, Cabaye, Gutierrez, Gosling, Guthrie, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Abeid, Vuckic, Smith, Ba, Shola Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Sammy Ameobi.
Shamrock’s top 10 really interesting facts and figures:
1. Newcastle have amassed only 6 points out of a possible 51 from each of our 17 visits to Old Trafford since the Premier League was formed.
2. In our relegation season we actually drew 1-1 in this fixture.
3. Wayne Rooney and Demba Ba both have two league hat tricks so far this term.
4. Ashley Young has five assists. He is as dangerous to us as Rooney.
5. Javier Hernandez likes to move early and spring a surprise, but it has seen him caught offside on more occasions than anybody else this season, overstepping the line 21 times.
6. The Magpies have failed to score at Old Trafford in five of their last seven outings.
7. Wayne Rooney will be looking for his 160th goal for his club. He will also be after his 10th goal in 13 games against us in Man Utd’s colours.
8. If Shola Ameobi plays he will be looking to score his 50th league goal.
9. Steven Taylor made 4 blocks against Man City last week. Only Vincent Kompany (5) has made more in any one single match this season.
10) Man Utd and Newcastle Utd have both lost only 1 league game in 15. Those losses were both to Man City.
Team selection and tactical thoughts:
So the red side of Manchester scrape through a few games and the pundits call it ‘winning ugly like true Champions’. We do the same and the pundits say we are ‘riding our luck’ and ‘the run will come crashing down soon’. To begin with I thought it was biased rubbish spouted by morons. However we have to appreciate that Man Utd are thoroughbred winners and whilst we have an impressive ‘never-say-die’ attitude, the Red Devils have the winning mentality, skill, experience and subconscious knack of being masters of pulling a result out of the bag. It’s ingrained in their psyche and they have done it time and time again for as far back as I can remember. No matter how encouraged we are by our side’s impressive start to the season, Sir Alex’s men will be an extremely tough nut to crack as always.
For all the flack David De Gea has received during his debut season as Man Utd #1, he has made 45 saves this season. That is only 1 less than the Premiership’s top dog Brad Friedel. However, in terms of saves to shots their Spanish stopper is the league’s best with 79%. He is an exceptional ‘keeper and if we are going to put one or two past him we will need to test him consistently throughout the game. Relying on our defence to hold firm without the assistance of our very own behemoth Cheik Tiote and expecting a rare counter attacking strike to be fumbled by De Gea is just not going to cut it.
The only way we are going to get something from this game is to play proper football. Keep our shape and discipline defensively by all means, but give our attacking players like Benny the freedom they yearn for and we might just have ‘Arfa chance. (Sorry about that). Hatem Ben Arfa is now almost back to full match fitness and he showed a few very good touches and hints of old self against City last week as demonstrated in Toonsy’s article. Let’s not underestimate the huge psychological boost that game will have given Benny for obvious reasons following his leg break in the same fixture previously.
If we let Man Utd press us into our own third regularly, Hernandez will destroy us. He is a master of losing his man in the box and has the uncanny ability of being able to turn his head around 180 degrees in order to head a shot into the back of the net with power despite his body actually facing away from goal! Just ask Stoke. No doubt Rooney will be dropping deep and drawing us out. When this happens we have to be especially aware of Nani, Young and Hernandez using lightning pace to exploit the gaps. Both Nani and Young and can cross and shoot from distance. They have two good feet each and will be just as comfortable hugging the byline as cutting inside. Our full backs will have to be 100% focused for 100% of the game in order to nullify these two.
Now then. Rooney dropping deep… We need somebody to get stuck in to him (in a legal way). Harass him, get in his face, don’t give him space and tackle robustly when not in a dangerous area. Steve Taylor and Coloccini need to keep their shape and direct the defence around them, they need to ensure they do not get drawn out and have to be immovable brick walls. That means we need a midfielder to do the above job. With Tiote out, I just don’t feel Guthrie has the conviction to destroy what little there is of Rooney’s cool, calm temperament so who can do the job?
Dan Gosling I feel is more of an industrious attacking player. That leaves Yohan Cabaye. He can do all of the above and I believe he would be excellent in this role for the day. He seems very calm and calculated and if Alan Pardew gives him these instructions with a game plan in mind I for one am confident that our French find of the decade will put Rooney off his game. Maybe even draw him into getting sent off for some foul mouthed tirade at the referee borne out of frustration?
Whilst we are in possession Cabaye will be able to ping the ball about from the deep positions to the likes of Ben Arfa and our wingers sat waiting further up the pitch. I said against Citeh we need to get players forward and press them deep in their own half every time we win the ball. In the 1st half we failed to do this and paid for it, however the boys did so in the 2nd half and looked far better for it. They have the technical ability and just need the confidence to do this against the established elite. If they do I reckon we will pull off the odd surprise three pointer against such sides. Our wingers have real pace and with Cabaye’s passing ability coupled with Ben Arfa’s creative spark, we definitely have the tools needed to find a way through against absolutely anybody.
With Fletcher, Giggs and Carrick being their options in the middle it is fair to say they don’t really have a midfield general with some serious bite. That could work to our advantage if we go narrow whilst attacking.
If Ferdinand is selected, we should try to exploit him for pace. He can be caught out as his legs are going. However he is still very good positioning wise and I don’t fancy us winning many headers from crosses in the box with Vidic now back in the squad and possibly the ever impressive all rounder Phil Jones bossing it across the back four. If Benny plays, Best probably wont (he’s a doubt anyway) so we will be lacking in the air. Our wingers should be looking to use their speed to lose players out wide and cut inside. From there we could get some nice 1-2’s going and get the ball into the box along the ground at pace. I feel we will get more shots on target with this approach.
Ryan Taylor was shown up by a better standard of player last week. That may have destroyed his confidence a bit and it could be a risk playing him against Man Utd, especially as I would rather see Gutierrez used as an attacking force for this game instead of covering the full back all the time. It could be said that playing an untested foreigner, albeit a quality one in a game like this in the full back position could be dangerous. I feel not giving Santon a shot when his competition messes up is unjust and sends out the wrong message. Santon should start at left back with a bit of luck and will get the opportunity to test himself in the best league in the world, against one of the best wingers in the world. If he plays well his confidence will be sky high and we could then be rest assured we have depth in that position. Give him a go Pardew, lets see what he’s made of!
43-year-old Cheshire based referee Mike Jones is the man in black for this one. Lets hope he is not too pally with the many Man Utd players that also live in that particular part of the country. He has been a pro for 14 years and in the Select Group since 2008.
He is generally regarded as a bit dodgy and prone to make mistakes. He does not seem to get given any of the big games and I am genuinely worried about having him in charge of this one. With the pressure Sir Alex put on referee’s combined with where this Ref lives, I worry about where the key decisions are going to go…
As far I can tell, he has been in charge of us four times in the Premier League. We have not gained a single point. Man Utd have won five and drawn one of the six games he has officiated for them. That said, he is rumoured to be a Liverpool fan so hopefully my paranoia is just that!
A word from Yohan Cabaye:
“We want to win against Manchester United. I think we can. We will be playing for a win on Saturday, This is a big game at a big stadium, but it’s good for us. This week we have a tough game against Man United and then Chelsea at home. They are two good games, but two tough games. We can test what we are made of and what we can do. We must see what we can do against the league’s big teams.
“It’s been a very good start here. I am happy with that and I want to keep winning. It’s important for everybody here we do that. We want to stay at the top of the Premier League and get back to winning a lot of matches. The team spirit is still very good here.”
So there we have it. This game will be all about confidence and not being afraid to have a go. Cabaye epitomises that and hopefully his confidence will exude to the rest of the team.
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Saturday 26th November 2011
Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Mike Jones
Howay the lads!