Wednesday 13 January 2016

Pace, flair and entertainment.... but not a win

United played some of their best football of the season at St James' Park but were still only held to a draw by relegation-threatened Newcastle.

We wanted more edge-of-the-seat entertainment and United certainly gave it to us.
It may well have been fantastic value for money viewing but when all said and done it was hard not to be downbeat and wonder what might have been. 

If any match proved how defensively fragile the Reds still can be then this was it. 2-0 up and pegged back to 2-2, 3-2  ahead with 11 minutes to play and still Louis van Gaal's side went home with only a point.

Still, I suppose it was better than a dull 0-0 stalemate.

It would appear at the moment you cannot have it all ways with United- it is either feast or famine. 

When we're great going forward, we are shambolic at the back and when we stay compact and tight at the back we cannot score- the ultimate Catch 22 situation. 

United had not taken an early first half lead, or any opening 45 minute lead for that matter, since Anthony Martial's goal in Wolfsburg on that fateful Champions League night.

The rare luxury didn't last when Naldo equalised three minutes later.

Being unable to crack that first half hoodoo has been one of the problems holding United back and causing such angst and tension.

So to go 2-0 ahead was an indulgence indeed- having said that, to not take advantage of a poor Newcastle side that are even more fragile than the Reds you'd have even more cause for concern.

You can't throw away that kind of gift and, for a while, we resembled the United of old as we carved Newcastle open with a superb counter-attack that bore all the pace, power and flair of yesteryear (we even saw some emotion from Louis van Gaal it was that good). 

Morgan Schneiderlin slipped the ball to Ander Herrera whom in turn picked out Wayne Rooney, whose fantastic vision spotted the onrushing Jesse Lingard with a sublime reverse pass for the young winger to score arguably our best goal of the season to date.

Then, after the delight came the despair as the brittle backline caved in- ala Wolfsburg- to bring the hosts back into the game.
To be opened up so softly from such a strong position was criminal and gives Van Gaal a dilemma: does he risk results by giving fans what they want or does he stick to his safe, methodical approach to grind out the wins but continue to bear their wrath? 

We need a balance of solid defence and brilliant attack in the same match, but, at the moment it's either one or the other. 

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