Man United 0-3 Newcastle: Pressure piles on Erik ten Hag as Red Devils suffer another DISMAL home defeat against Eddie Howe’s second string to end their Carabao Cup defence with a whimper
The problem for Manchester United at the moment is that there is always another game. When it arrives, Erik ten Hag’s team inevitably tend to get worse.
Sunday saw them lose 3-0 to their neighbours Manchester City. That was pretty wretched but City are the Premier League champions and treble winners, possibly the best team in the world. This was Newcastle reserves – a team full of footballers in the wrong positions – but still United lost by the same scoreline.
And could it have been a greater margin? Of course it could. Apart from a 15 minute spell at the start of the second half, Newcastle were the better team by an absolute mile.
Reguilon and Amrabat, for example, have only been at the club since the end of August but this is a football club where irresponsibility and lack of accountability spreads like a virus. Quite simply nobody is safe and that now includes the manager.
Ten Hag has done some impressive things in his 18 months at United but none of them have come this season. Right now the Dutchman looks as impotent as any captain of a sinking vessel.
United are heading south at lightning speed and unless Ten Hag can somehow bring about a complete change of direction over the next few weeks he simply will not survive a regression as sharp and ugly as any that have preceded him in the decade since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
Newcastle, it must be said, were magnificent. Short of bodies, this was an Eddie Howe team that didn’t necessarily look set up to win. But they were marvellous all night, playing with an expression and a freedom that used to be the preserve of those wearing red.
They were two up and in control by half-time, thanks to Miguel Almiron and young Lewis Hall. They wobbled for fifteen minutes as United tried to throw the kitchen sink at them early in the second period. But United couldn’t get any further than unscrewing the taps and when Joe Willock drove in the third just after the hour another chapter in Ten Hag’s increasingly ugly story at Old Trafford had been written.
By full-time Old Trafford was virtually empty apart from the 8,000 supporters who had travelled south from Newcastle. The support and loyalty being shown by United’s fans is impressive.
They have seen their club stripped of its soul by the owning Glazer family and, bit by bit and piece by piece, their team has followed suit. But still they come. Still they try to rouse their team. It isn’t a surprise that they don’t always stay until the end. It’s a miracle they are still turning up at all.
Strangely for Newcastle, it was an early injury blow that played a part in what transpired to be a night of dominance. Howe was trying to protect players ahead of Saturday evening’s game with Arsenal but when Matt Targett pulled his hamstring in just the second minute, it prompted the introduction of Almiron who was superb and did much more than just score the opening goal.
Both teams started slowly but Newcastle grew in to the game in a way their opponents didn’t and in the 29th minute they were ahead.
Alejandro Garnacho drove at Tino Livramento down the left side but when the full-back tackled him, United were in trouble. Livramento sped up field, eased past Mason Mount as though he was not there and then played a pass inside Diogo Dalot that Almiron was able to finish off with a shot across Andre Onana.
It was a superb Newcastle goal, counter attacking football at its finest. Briefly United rallied, jolted from their lethargy by the shock of the goal, but soon after Newcastle got them again.
Conceding a free-kick in centre field, three United players were still arguing with the referee as play restarted. Newcastle were able to build down the left, Almiron played Willock to the byline between Dalot and Casimero and when the dinked cross was cleared, Hall volleyed his first Newcastle goal in to the corner from just inside the penalty area.
United had been utterly uncompetitive but, with the hapless duo of Dalot and Casmiro hauled off at half-time, that changed for a while. They had 80 per cent of the ball in the first 15 minutes of the second period and had they scored the direction of the game could have shited.
But the goal didn’t come and when the Brazilian Joelinton, playing at the base of the midfield, won the ball from Amrabat in the 61st minute, Willock was able to run forward with it. The former Arsenal player had been impressive all night and as Harry Maguire’s path to close him down was blocked by a Newcastle body, Willock passed the ball right-footed in to Onana’s bottom left hand corner from 18 yards.
United were done and pretty soon so may be their manager. Ten Hag currently looks like a man tied to a train track and even in Manchester if you wait long enough one will come along eventually.