The pressure is officially back on.
Manchester United fell to fourth in the Premier League table on Sunday after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. The Reds struggled from the start without their first choice midfield, and the result reflected the direction of traffic for much of the game.
In the first half alone, Newcastle registered 11 shots to United’s 2, and probably would have scored if not for a double save by David De Gea. Meanwhile the Reds had nothing going for them in midfield, and when the ball did get forward their attackers were isolated or disjointed, and often the possession ended on an errant pass. The giveaways and the extended periods between forward possession were a bad sign of things to come in the second half, and Erik ten Hag did little to adjust in midfield.
The first changes for United came with the return of Anthony Martial alongside Jadon Sancho, withdrawing Wout Weghorst and Antony, the latter of whom was a bit surprised to come off. Scott McTominay played as a no. 10 for much of the game with Bruno Fernandes in a pivot with Marcel Sabitzer, and despite the struggles there was no introduction of Fred until the final minutes.
The score opened in the 65th minute, with Joe Willock arriving to finish off a well worked chance across goal. United were exposed a couple times out wide, and they were finally punished for it after the hour.
United created some opportunities for themselves to draw level, but couldn’t find the net. Martial and Sabitzer both had decent efforts blocked at the last minute. Having a more involved forward seemed to help, but with the midfield as inneffective as it was on the day there just wasn’t enough possession in attacking areas for United to develop anything meaningful.
United were put out of their misery in the 88th minute as Calum Wilson headed home a cross from a free kick, again highlighting the weaknesses of De Gea’s game as well as United’s back line with only Lindelof on the pitch as a true centre back.
Overall it was a match United weren’t set up properly for. The midfield was a mess from the start, and without Casemiro the options are certainly limited, but ten Hag has to cook up something better on Wednesday or risk some serious trouble in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification.