Sat. Feb 27th, 2021

Man Utd

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Man United added a first-team player to their coaching staff vs Newcastle

5 min read

Rashford’s role

Marcus Rashford has been waiting a while to start back-to-back games on the left but having impressed in that role against Real Sociedad he was back on the left against Newcastle and he again demonstrated why this is clearly his best role.

Rashford had the beating of Emil Krafth every time he managed to isolate him, the only shame for Manchester United was that they didn’t work that position often enough.

He’d already left Krafth clutching at thin air a couple of times before beating him twice for his goal, first poking the ball through the right-back’s legs and getting on to the end of it, before cutting back inside and firing past Karl Darlow.

That takes Rashford onto 18 goals for the season and he is clearly on course to better last season’s tally of 22. It’s been hard going for United’s forwards at times this season, and Solskjaer mentioned the need for Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood to improve on their finishing ahead of this fixture.

Rashford slammed home his chance when it arrived and this was further evidence that United lose something when they don’t start him in his favoured position.

A terrifying tactic

United’s defending in the opening stages can only be described as slapstick and they were probably fortunate there was no crowd inside Old Trafford. You can only imagine how they would have reacted to Fred and Maguire smashing the ball against each other and the comical attempts to play out from the back.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and David de Gea attempted to work a position as they played out on the right but each pass put them further in trouble and nobody had the cool head or the passing ability to break Newcastle’s press. When De Gea then tried to switch play left he only succeeded in passing the ball straight to Miguel Almiron, who couldn’t take advantage.

Watching that passage of play was akin to watching a scary movie – when you know the horror is coming but don’t know when, it makes it all the more terrifying. The longer it went on the more you wanted to hide behind the sofa.

Not that it discouraged United. They continued to try and play out from the back and find a way to play through Newcastle, but they rarely did it with much accuracy.

United should be praised for trying to play that way – there’s very few successful teams who don’t play through their defence now – but to make a success of that tactic they need a lot of work on the training ground or at least one change of personnel at the back. De Gea, Lindelof and Maguire do not inspire confidence with the ball at their feet.

A reminder from Martial

There was a moment in the second half that provided a brief glimpse into why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t lose faith with Martial just yet.

Having been anonymous for most of the game, with Solskjaer imploring him to show more movement a few minutes earlier Martial suddenly sprang into life on the right touchline.

He showed strength to collect the ball under pressure from Isaac Hayden and balance to drive away from the defensive midfielder. Then came the skill and the impudence to slip past Ciaran Clark as if he wasn’t there, before a fierce right-footed drive was well saved by Karl Darlow.

It was a fine reminder of what Martial can offer, but unfortunately it was an isolated incident on an otherwise disappointing night for United’s No.9.

Martial’s evening was probably better summed up when Nemanja Matic’s simple pass slipped under his studs and out of play in the closing stages of the first half.

That’s now seven goals in 32 games this season and even with Edinson Cavani injured Martial was fortunate to start ahead of Greenwood and even more fortunate to remain on for 70 minutes.

That one moment when he sprung into life was a reminder of the talent he possesses, but it’s got to be produced on a more consistent basis if Martial is to earn a place in Solskjaer’s best side.

Defending crosses

United can’t say they weren’t warned about Newcastle’s approach from corners. By the time Allan Saint-Maximin scored from a short corner routine from the right nine minutes before half-time United had already failed to defend two similar set-pieces.

The first two saw De Gea save from Joelinton and Saint-Maximin after failing to clear their lines suitably, but they wouldn’t get away with it for a third time. This time De Gea was partly culpable, his inability to command his six-yard box leaving Maguire with a difficult defensive header, one which he made a mess off, allowing Saint-Maximin a much easier chance this time.

United have now conceded from crosses into their box against Sheffield United, Everton, West Brom and Newcastle and while every goal was subtly different in the delivery and execution, the end result was the same every time: the ball in the back of the United net.

Teams are beginning to pray on this weakness, just as Newcastle did at Old Trafford. They knew they could stick crosses into the six-yard box and United would be deep, with De Gea unlikely to come off his line and the defence reluctant to push up as a result.


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Dugout changes

Lee Grant was named on the United teamsheet as third-choice goalkeeper against Real Sociedad on Thursday night, with UEFA rules permitting 12 substitutes to be named allowing teams to play it safe when it comes to their resources in the most unique position on the pitch.

Grant knows his role at United though and he’s only made the bench once in the Premier League this season, but he did make the teamsheet against Newcastle.

United’s statement that some of their first-team coaching staff were self-isolating earlier on Sunday gave no clue as to the identity of the individuals but the teamsheet did. None of Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick or Kieran McKenna were listed, as they usually are, while neither of the senior goalkeeping coaches in Richard Hartis or Craig Pawson were named. Instead, it was Grant who was listed as the goalkeeping coach and he took David de Gea and Dean Henderson through their warm-ups before the match.

Solskjaer said pre-match that he would still be getting good advice, having worked with Dempsey at Molde and Cardiff before linking up at United, but it was noticeable that the presence in the technical area was reduced. Usually Phelan, Carrick or McKenna would be out issuing instructions, but that was a role only Solskjaer fulfilled against Newcastle and his forays to the touchline were rare.

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