Newcastle vs Man United result: Matty Longstaff’s debut winner leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side unravelling

Newcastle 1-0 Man United: The Norwegian’s side have now gone 11 away games without a win

Mark Critchley
Sunday 06 October 2019 19:44
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It is becoming difficult to find new ways of describing Manchester United‘s manifest problems. Again, there was a lamentable absence of creativity and imagination. Again, there were no options on the substitutes’ bench to call upon. Again, it was unclear what exactly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to achieve and how he expects to achieve it.

This defeat to Newcastle United – second-bottom and badly out of form themselves at the start of the day – leaves United only two points above the relegation zone. Even if it is accepted that this is a season of transition at Old Trafford, one where inexperienced players and coaches alike are given time to prove themselves, that should be alarming.

Matty Longstaff’s strike from the edge of the area on his Premier League debut proved decisive, punishing another abject United display. The three points were no less than Steve Bruce’s side deserved for a disciplined, organised and Stakhanovite performance that was in complete contrast to last weekend’s 5-0 defeat at Leicester City.

The St James’ Park crowd demands effort and application as a bare minimum. Their players – particular Longstaff and his older brother Sean – delivered. Their visitors, on the other hand, tried and miserably failed. Like in Den Haag in the Europa League on Thursday night, United were bereft of ideas going forward. There was a shot on target, this time. Three, in fact, but very little that could be described as a clear-cut chance.

Newcastle had much the better of the opening 45 minutes, with the lively Allan Saint-Maximin being a particular nuisance. It was his pass to the younger of the two Longstaff brothers which allowed Matty to rattle the crossbar with a speculative effort from distance. The elder Longstaff, meanwhile, set up Newcastle’s best opening of the half.

Miguel Almiron’s immaculate first touch stopped Sean’s pass dead but there followed a moment’s hesitation. If he had already scored his first Newcastle goal, perhaps he would have taken the opportunity with more confidence. Instead, he offered Harry Maguire enough time to nip in to block.

Having denied Newcastle at one end, the most expensive defender in world football should have punished them at the other moments before the break. When Ciaran Clark unconvincingly cleared the ball over his own crossbar, Maguire glanced the resulting corner wide of the far post. United’s 220-day wait for a set-piece goal continues.

Matty Longstaff celebrates scoring the game’s only goal

It would be wise for Solskjaer to work on dead-ball situations during the forthcoming international break. The poverty of United’s attack in open play cannot sustain a bid for a top-four finish, as another 45 minutes of half-chances and speculative efforts demonstrated. Newcastle, meanwhile, still posed a threat on the counter-attack.

After another United set-piece came to nothing, Saint-Maximin broke at speed. With help from the over-lapping Jetro Willems, the ball was worked back to the younger Longstaff, who was poised outside the box, ready to pounce. United were woefully slow to close him down. The shot was low, hard and out of De Gea’s reach.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cuts a frustrated figure

There is not much need for further exposition when the statistics do all the talking. This was United’s 11th away trip without victory. It is still their worst start since the 1989-90 season, when they were one point worse off after eight games. Jose Mourinho was sacked after taking 26 points from 17 league games last December. Solskjaer has taken just 17 points from the same number of matches. How much longer can this continue?

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