The problem for Manchester United at the moment is that there is always another game and, when it arrives, they inevitably tend to get even 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.
Could it have been a greater margin? Of course. Apart from a 15 minute spell at the start of the second half, Newcastle were the better team by an absolute mile.
But then Erik ten Hag’s United are not a team at all, not really. The United manager made changes from Sunday for this one but none of that really matters as a seam of indifference and chaos runs through his squad from front to back and from top to bottom.
Miguel Almiron got Newcastle off to a great start with a well taken finish after Livramento’s run
Youngster Lewis Hill scored a spectacular second when he volleyed from the edge of the area
The wonder strike was the 19-year-old fullback’s first goal in senior football
It is hard to work out what was the low point of this shameful night. Was at young midfielder Hannibal almost being sent off with 15 minutes? Or three players moaning at the referee as Newcastle took a free-kick en route to creating their second goal?
Or maybe it was Sergio Reguilon being booked for kicking the ball away when United were three down? Or Sofyan Amrabat seeing yellow for dissent a couple of minutes later?
Reguilon and Amrabat have only been at the club since the end of August but irresponsibility and lack of accountability spreads like a virus. Nobody is safe and that now includes the manager.
Ten Hag has done some impressive things in his 18 months at United but none this season. The Dutchman looks as impotent as any captain of a sinking vessel. United are heading south and unless Ten Hag can somehow bring about a complete change of direction over the next few weeks he 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 could only really manage to unscrew 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.
For Newcastle, an early injury blow played a part a dominant first half. Howe was trying to protect players ahead of Saturday game with Arsenal but when Matt Targett pulled his hamstring in just prompted the introduction of Miguel Almiron who was superb and did much more than just score the opening goal.
Almiron, one of many Newcastle players to have flourished under Howe’s guidance, was confident, direct and aggressive — and he wasn’t the only Toon player about whom that could be said.
As for United, they possessed none of these qualities. Ten Hag’s much-changed team were passive and meek and lacking in any kind of purpose during the opening 45 minutes. They were jeered off at half-time by their own fans.
United started the second-half brightly but came unstuck when Joe Willock fired past Onana
The former Arsenal midfielder capped off his return to the first team with a stunning finish
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Second-half substitute Sofyan Amrabat was at fault for Newcastle’s third goal on the night
Ten Hag looked ashen and bereft of ideas or influence. As he chewed his gum monotonously on the bench, his team were taken apart.
Early on there was not much in it. Both teams struggled for rhythm. But the warning signs were there for United, though. The young midfielder Hannibal Mejbri was booked for an aerial barge on Sean Longstaff and could have walked after a late challenge on the same player soon after.
Meanwhile Casemiro also received a yellow for arriving late and it summed up the home team’s struggles.
Many of these players should have seen this night as an opportunity. Instead they simply mirrored the haplessness and fecklessness of the team that had lost here to Manchester City.
Newcastle grew into the game. In the 22nd minute Matt Ritchie drove over from 25 yards after United coughed up possession at their own thrown in. Seven minutes later Newcastle were ahead.
Garnacho was at least trying to be positive for United when driving 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 and then played a pass inside Diogo Dalot that was able to finish off with a shot across Andre Onana.
It was a superb goal, counter-attacking football at its finest. Briefly United rallied and Reguilon shot over after Hannibal’s pass.
Soon after, however, Newcastle got them again. Conceding a free-kick in centre field, three United players were still arguing with the referee as play restarted.
Erik ten Hag made seven changes from the team that lost to Man City but looked to his bench when his side were 3-0 down
Man United winger Antony endured another unproductive outing for the home side
Erik ten Hag has now seen his side lose 3-0 at home in as many games as pressures continues to mount
Newcastle were able to build down the left, Almiron played Joe Willock to the byline between Dalot and Casimero and when the dinked cross was cleared, Hall volleyed his first Newcastle goal from just inside the penalty area.
Ten Hag had to do something at half-time. It couldn’t continue. So Dalot and Casemiro came off and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Amrabat came on. And for 15 minutes United played with urgency and tempo and slickness. They passed quickly and they ran hard. Newcastle couldn’t get out of their own half for a quarter of an hour.
The Old Trafford crowd did its bit, too. Had United scored then, just maybe things could have turned. But they didn’t and them predictably, Newcastle did.
Joelinton, playing at the base of the midfield, won the ball from Amrabat and that allowed Willock to run forward with it. He 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.
‘We can see you creeping out’ the Newcastle fans sang to their counterparts in red. The was no creeping about it, though. You could almost hear the seats slam in to the upright position as United supporters left the stadium with almost half an hour still to play.
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