After an agonising two weeks away during the international break, the ‘Opposition Opinion’ returns with some thoughts from Manchester ahead of tomorrow’s 5.30pm kick off against Jose Mourinho’s side.
As ever, we are looking to bring you a view from the other side before tonight’s game, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own club and their thoughts on of our upcoming match.
This week we’ve been speaking to Man Utd fans Jamie and Jeffrey, who’ve had the following to say ahead of our trip to Old Trafford tomorrow:
Q1) What have you made of your season so far? We’re keen to know what sort of shape you’re coming into tomorrow’s game in?
“I have been happy with our start to the season, despite what the critics have been saying.
“Although the style of football has not been completely up to the standard we want, the results have been better than we’ve seen in previous years. We have been winning at Old Trafford which has brought back a certain feeling.
“The biggest issue we have is that Pep and City have started so well that for some, it looks like we are in some sort of crisis because of the way we played compared to them as well as our performances at Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
“Obviously the international break has been hard as a United fan as we lost to Chelsea before teams went off, and Jones is now injured, who’s been brilliant this season along side Bailly.
“Our performance levels have dropped a lot ever since Paul Pogba got injured. To the average EPL fan he is an overrated player but to our football team, in terms of actual reality on the field, he is a world class player who can do anything with the ball and see any pass (he produces Shelvey esq passes for fun, but it’s not his default skill, like it is for Shelvey) and our team miss his drive in the final third and his general presence.
“Lukaku had a good international break with a few goals for Belgium and I honestly think we should have to much for Newcastle. Missing likes of Merino and Lascelles is a big blow for NUFC”
Q2) What do you make of our start to the season & Newcastle’s current side? Who do you see as our threats & is there any weak links in our team that you feel you can exploit?
“As a lot were, I was very critical of NUFC’s window in general in the summer , but I lived in Newcastle for a lot of years and watched the team closely so I knew expectations would be big no matter what.
“Saying that, I have not been surprised by Newcastle’s start to the season. You are currently mid table, which is where I expect you to be in your first season back in the premier league.
“Your up and down results also don’t surprise me because of the quality of your current squad. Take no offence, I feel you are doing ok considering the level of investment spent on your squad over the summer.
“In terms of your strengths: I don’t think your tactical set up from a defensive standpoint is an issue. Your players know where to be when the opposition has the ball therefore I see you as quite hard to breakdown.
“I think Ritche and Atsu are handfuls for different reasons. Atsu can cause problems in one-on-ones and is dynamic. Richie is a playmaker/winger and can score at any given moment if given the space.
“Shelvey is key to Newcastle because his long-range passing is exquisite and up there with the best in this country. Yedlin is dynamic for a full-back but his final ball lets him down.
“The weak links in your team are more to do with tangible things, such as, how will you react if you go a goal behind (not well in my opinion), will there be enough off the ball movement at Old Trafford by your team (there wasn’t at Turf Moor), will you keep the ball for long-enough to cause us problems (I’m not sure).
“Lascelles will be a miss. I also think the left back area is a issue for Newcastle as well.
“I don’t watch Newcastle enough to warrant pin pointing a individual player, but Valencia and Mata can cause problems for any team down the wing and it’s known Newcastle have a lack of quality at left back.
“Also lack of a goalscorer’s in the team is a problem. Perez to lightweight for me and Mitrovic is not good enough. Most might not agree but that’s my opinion!
“I feel if we can get an early goal it could be a long day for you boys. But on the other side of the coin, if you hold us until late on, you never know you might nick one. We know Rafa will have you’s organised well that’s for sure!”
Q3) Likewise, who do you feel are the strengths & weaknesses in your Man United side – any players for us to watch out for on Saturday for any particular reason?
“The strengths of our team is who ever starts between Martial and Rashford on our left wing. Both will destroy you if you give them time and space. Either of them can produce magic from anywhere and at any given moment.
“Mkhitaryan will open you up if you afford him space. There is a reason why he is never given space and is often marked tightly by PL teams. Saying that, he’s had some shocking performances of late so we’re hoping he starts firing again.
“De Gea is the best goalkeeper in the league and maybe even the best in the world for me at the minute. His consistency is phenomenal week in week out.
“Valencia has been superb all season at right-back. He gets better and better every week.
“Lukaku is the player you have to keep your eye on the most. If you allow us to feed him and don’t mark him tightly all match then that will lead to your downfall. He is our focal point in attack and his game is far more varied, subtle and dynamic than is looks.
“Our counter attacking is very good, so attacking us will be like a double edged sword for you.
“We are hard to break down and our defence is a tough nut to crack. We like to control the strengths of the opposition rather than control them by having a ton of possession.
“Our weakness is our lack of substance, which means we won’t be playing attractive football and moving the ball quick enough to cause you problems.
“If you weather the early storm you may be able to frustrate us for long periods.
“We don’t pass the ball quick enough at times which means opposition teams can stay in their defensive positions and set themselves well.
“Our left back area is a problem if you have a right winger with pace.”
Q4) How do you see the match panning out? Score Prediction?
“I see us winning 2-0, but the performance will be scrappy because Newcastle in my opinion are well drilled. Rafa will set up with two banks of four, so it will be up to united to break that down”
“There is potential for us to open the floodgates because I feel your defenders have the potential to make mistakes.
“If we get one early it could be 3, 4 as I feel you could get a backlash for our recent performances.”
Q5) How do you see both sides faring over the season? Predictions for rough league position?
“I believe we will finish in the top three, but we all want to win the league.
“At this stage, it is about whether there are enough teams who can beat Man City. Right now it doesn’t look like it.
“The return of Pogba, Zlatan and Rojo should push us over the line to finish 2nd.
“Newcastle will finish in the top half if you spend well in January. If you don’t invest then I think you finish mid table, or below.
“With a goal scoring striker signed, you could have a solid first season back in the league. You’re well organised, you just lack quality up top and goals to win games.
“A stable league position this year and a takeover could set you up nicely for a big summer and some exciting times ahead.
“Your fans would deserve it too. The support is phenomenal up there, but it will all take time to gel after the shambles of Ashley’s regime.”
Q6) Rafa Benitez – He’s got a history with Mourinho and if we win on Saturday (unlikely I know!), he’ll be the first manager to have won at Old Trafford with three different sides. What do you make of him and his rivalry with Jose?
“Rafa Benitez is a world class football manager who knows how to set up a team to win AND DRAW. He has won at Old Trafford twice before, which is evidence of his mentality. His teams style of play is often boring but he knows how to win.
“Tactically he is up there with the best. Another issue is that he knows how to play against Jose Mourinho.
“Although the perception is that he parks the bus, not many managers know how to match up to him when you take a closer look.
“Their rivalry is not a big deal to us – not until your potential takeover at least. Then you’ll become a threat to us!”
A really detailed and interesting insight here, setting us up nicely for what promises to be a really tough game at Old Trafford.
As ever, we thank them both for taking the time to speak to us, giving us yet another enjoyable read to whet our appetite for the big game.
We’ll be back next week with the thoughts of a Watford fan ahead of our clash with Marco Silva’s men at St James’ Park next Saturday.
Here’s hoping for a good performance and maybe even a result tomorrow night – HWTL!