Football: `Our worst in 12 months' - Keegan

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The Independent Online
Kevin Keegan was severely critical of his Newcastle side after their Premiership lead was cut to seven points by Manchester United at Old Trafford.

"It was a very disappointing performance by us - perhaps our worst in the last 12 months," Keegan said. "I thought our defence did OK, but they had quite a lot to do. The problem was that in midfield and up front none of our players did themselves justice.

"So many of them were giving the ball away and passing on the responsibility, which is unusual although it happens sometimes. The circus came to town but the lions and tigers just didn't turn up. I don't mind losing, but I'd like to lose playing a lot better than that."

Keegan conceded that it was almost inevitable Andy Cole would find the target against his old club, but his own side's lack of fire-power also upset him.

"Andy's goal might have surprised the Manchester United fans because he's been having a poor time, but it was the sort of thing he did for us every week," Keegan said.

"The trouble was we only had one chance in 90 minutes when Les Ferdinand went through and hit Peter Schmeichel. We didn't create anything other than that."

Newcastle's disappointment was magnified by the news of their winger Keith Gillespie, who faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines. "He's ruptured the tendon in his thigh," Keegan said. "It will be a couple of months, I would think, which is bad news because he's been having a great season."

While Keegan did not attempt to hide his displeasure, Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, was a contented man.

"We decided to attack them and took the risk," he said. "We went for their throats and it paid dividends with a good performance and a great result. In fact it could have been more than two, but we'll settle for that.

"The combination of Keane and Butt showed how vital that sort of play is in the modern game, while Giggs gave us penetration out wide.

"Andy Cole and Eric Cantona showed a chemistry about them, David May and Gary Neville did not look as if it was the first time they had played together, and Denis Irwin kept Ginola as quiet as anybody all season.

"Everybody has been talking about Newcastle going 13 points clear, but now it's only seven and that makes a real difference. I think it's wide open again now."

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