Manchester United fell to a 1-0 loss at Newcastle United to extend Jose Mourinho’s winless run at St. James Park and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports, Accra, points out the main stories.
Failure to take chances is an expensive business
All football is summed up in one maxim: Take your chances or the opponent will take theirs. That played itself out at the St. James Park. After struggling to make sense of what was happening, the Red Devils got into their groove and created opportunities.
Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez got into very good positions but they failed to find the net. The clearest fell to Sanchez and Martial but when they were not being stopped by the goalkeeper, there were defender’s legs in the mix.
Newcastle United’s most open chance was put away and that was the difference on the day.
Some will say the team was unlucky but there was enough quality in the team to put the chances away. Had runners being available, maybe Martial and Sanchez would have found them rather.
Whatever it is, the team had what it took to win and they had the moments to write a different story but they failed to do so and there was just retribution.
Smalling horrible, Pogba poor
While one can mention the lack of sharpness in attack as a main issue, it will be fair to mention that some players in other areas were very poor on the day.
Chris Smalling was the biggest culprit and nothing could obscure that. From a few uncertain moments in the first half, he went downhill in the second half.
He first went in on Dwight Gayle and was lucky to have escaped without a penalty.
His decision to dive after dribbling two Newcastle United players cost the team a free kick that led to the Matt Ritchie’s goal but before that, he did not seem to know how to approach a pass from Nemanja Matic and he virtually backed away from receiving it.
Later in the half, he came out of his area to attack a pass in the midfield area but stopped halfway through and was beaten by the Newcastle passing sequence.
Paul Pogba also had a below par game.
Some reports state a slight injury in the warm-up but Jose Mourinho said there was nothing like that. Whatever it was, the Frenchman did not give his best on the day especially on the defensive end.
Is it another testimony that he needs more solidity behind him in order to deliver in attack?
An answer is required to solve this puzzle.
No one knows what the manager makes of Chris Smalling but it is very obvious that the team deserves better performances from a player in the rear guard. He will have to improve or someone better should come in. It is non-negotiable.
Apparent lack of hunger
This is not the first time that Man United have shown performance filled with lethargy. The initial 20 minutes belonged to Newcastle United and even when the tide changed, they were ready to defend and attack with gusto.
Man United do not often play like this in the league and that is worrying.
It is as though there is not pride in wearing the jersey and fighting for it until the end.
Players are unwilling to make things happen. They are unwilling to take risks and create opportunities and simple things like take shots from distance.
The starts to matches are just poor and more often, there is a scramble to find some good rhythm later in matches.
It is pertinent to ask if the players were ready for the start Newcastle United used in the match.
The events are repeating themselves a bit too often and the consequences are also coming in cycles.
It is time to see the truth and react appropriately if the glory days will return.