Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra both headed home in the first quarter of an hour before Tom Cleverley scored a wonderful curling shot to secure United’s fifth win of the campaign. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the three most important things we learned from the one-sided game at the Sports Direct Arena.
1. Ferguson Got His Tactics Right
Against Tottenham Hotspur, Sir Alex Ferguson completely got his tactics and team-selection wrong. The Scot deployed a 4-4-2 formation, wherein the midfield and defence was too weak and lacked the pace to counter Spurs’ tormenting attack.
However, against Newcastle, Fergie revolutionized his formation and completely transformed the team’s tactics.
United played with more of a 4-2-3-1 line-up with heavy emphasis on attack and build-up play. The likes of Rooney, Carrick and Cleverley became the fulcrum and hub of the Red Devils’ game, forming the pivotal nexus between defence and midfield and ensuring that the visitors dominated the possession and consequently, the match.
Newcastle's central midfield duo of Tiote and Cabaye were outnumbered, and left chasing the game after conceding two early goals from set pieces, could not exert the same influence as they did when the sides met in January, when the Toon ran out 3-0 winners.
Ferguson’s new tactics not only helped United ditch their futile counter-attacking play for the relatively consistent and stable possession play, but also encouraged the midfield and attack to collectively help out the vulnerable defence and shut out the opposition.
2. Defensive Frailties Remain
Even though the collective effort of the team helped United to claim their only second clean-sheet of the season, the back-four still showed some worrying signs.
David de Gea even though made some wonderful saves throughout the course of the game, looked shaky with incoming crosses and set pieces.
Moreover, due to Alex Ferguson’s rotation policy that has limited de Gea to only five appearances so far this season, there was a lack of communication and understanding between the defenders and de Gea.
Rafael Da Silva had his same old game as the Brazilian was a constant threat going forward but was often found out of position at the back.
Patrice Evra on the other hand, might have scored a pivotal goal, but the Frenchman too failed to fulfil his defensive duties and was lucky not to concede a clear-cut penalty when he tugged Papiss Cisse’s shirt late in the first half.
The central defence duo of Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand were able to contain Newcastle’s daunting strikeforce consisting of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, but as mentioned above, it was largely due to the defensive contributions of likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley.
The two were easily beaten by their markers during set-pieces and such mistakes will not go unpunished in Europe or against Premier League’s ‘blue brigade’ of Chelsea and Manchester City.
3. Tom Cleverley is the Future of United’s Midfield
After an injury-plagued past season, Tom Cleverley is finally cementing his position as the future of Manchester United’s midfield.
The England international was just fabulous on Sunday, orchestrating United’s midfield, doing a decent job at the back and most importantly, forming a great partnership with fellow countryman, Wayne Rooney, at the centre of the park.
With the likes Paul Scholes ageing, and Michael Carrick and Anderson unconvincing, Cleverley will surely be United’s most important midfielder this season and supporters will now hope that the youngster lives up to his true potential.
His goal was the second he has scored for the club, both against Newcastle, and the second in as many domestic starts.
image: © eschipul