Saturday was good for 10 minutes. Better in the hours after the game finished. Proper game management. We played to Swansea’s disadvantages. It worked. It wasn’t easy, or fun, or stylish but it worked. Thank god. I’m pleased for nights like Saturday night. When a few post match drinks turns into a dreadful Sunday, but the kind of Sunday you savour because you know why it happened. Because United picked up three points. You could talk about the match, the team, the club without swearing and without rancour. One game does that to you, and by the 90th minute everyone in the ground believed again.
United staying up is till improbable, but seems less impossible than ever. I don’t
know anyone who’s chucked the towel in any more when the last few weeks it’s been a done deal according to some. Winning is a big deal. If we do go down, only winning can fix Newcastle United. Some people want us to lose. They live in awful places and are jealous of what this club could be. Aston Villa – it’s a shame it happened like that. I hate them, but no football club should be treated like an afterthought. I take delight in their relegation, but not in the way their club has been hollowed out from the inside and left to rot. Let’s face it though. Aston Villa’s moment in the sun came on 24.05.09. Forget about the people running their club – the fans were guilty. Laughing, mocking – thinking they were superior, they were safe from our fate. They take no blame in the farcical way their club has disintegrated, but I’ll laugh at them all the same. Good riddance – I hope they never come back as a team but get the chance to re-emerge as a football club.
Back to Newcastle United. You love Newcastle United. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. Whether you go, you don’t go, want to go but can’t, go but don’t want to – we’re all the same. We all want the same. However if you’re blaming the fans of this club for it’s current state then I’ve no time for your opinion. The people who share your views are Matthew Syed, Oliver Holt or Martin Samuels – then men who took utter delight in Newcastle United’d relegation in 2009 – and it had nothing to do with Mike Ashley. Expect more delight from the same people if we go down. Proper grubby, ingrained hatred of this club. ‘West Ham should have stuck with Sam Allardyce you know, just look at Newcastle.’ They’ve all bought into Leicester City because Leicester City won’t happen again. It won’t. The fan base isn’t there. The city isn’t upto it to dominate English football. The press pack know it’s a one off so it doesn’t threaten or worry them.
I really hope Leicester win the league. I have so much respect for Claudio Ranieri
and Pochettino – managing to conduct a battle for the Premier League without insulting one another, accusing each other of advantages, or betrayals. Rafa Benitez and Kevin Keegan publically displayed their disguist about the way Ferguson, Mourinho and even Wenger conduct themselves in public, doing anything to gain an advantage – and the media laughed at them. Benitez, Keegan, Ranieri and Pochettino are the men you want running your football teams. Throw Pelegrinni in as well – a man with integrity and class. Leicester are proving there is a different way. Leicester aren’t in the same league as Newcastle United though in terms of size or potential.
So Tuesday is another massive game to keep us competing with Leicester City and not Aston Vile. Maybe you think the players don’t deserve the support required from the stands. Maybe Ashley doesn’t. It doesn’t matter though – it is needed. Saturday was nervous for ages. Flat. Tense. Eventually jubilant. We play twice before Sunderland play again. We play three times before Norwich kick off again. Each of Sunderland and Norwich’s next game is a stuttering Arsenal. Wenger has never failed to finish in the top 4. To do so he’ll most likely have to beat Sunderland and Norwich. This is the week we can really get into our relegation rivals. Win against Man City and we’re out of the relegation zone. That’s massive. Could you have imagined that after the last minute goal and Norwich, or the first half at Southampton? Many said it was impossible, yet here we are.
Can we beat Man City? Of course. Do we need to beat them to stay up? Who knows. I just know that I saw a United team play with organisation and discipline on Saturday. Man City are in form but when are they not? They’re beatable . I’d love to be taking them on with a full strength team. Anita did well on Saturday but this is a different challenge. Sissoko was played out of position, behind the striker. He did fine, I noticed him there more than I’ve noticed Perez or Winjaldum playing that position in numerous games this season. He got his goal. Loads of people hate him. Fine. We need him. Accept it. I promise you Sissoko is the player Man City are worrying most about. I always say I’d drop Winjladum but it’s got to the point now he’s been so invisible for so long the law of averages will surely see him contribute at some point. Dummet came back in and bar a couple of mares which lead to nothing, he did well and his aerial presence really helped the side defend set pieces and crosses. Lascelles was good. He ‘leaves it all out on the pitch’ to use an American phrase, but it’s true. He won’t die wondering against Aguero. Considering Aguero’s success against our defence perhaps a massive tank putting him under physical pressure may be the answer. I’m looking forward to finding out.
Shelvey will probably be on the bench again. It gives Tiote the license go a bit mental and steam in to aerial challenges with scant regard for his own or the oppositions safety. Like he used to. Pick up his booking and get subbed off on 60ish. It works. It’s always worked. It’s only when he was asked to do more and we didn’t sign any central midfielders for 3 years that he began to struggle. Let’s see who’s up for missing the Champions League semi final with that head case flying into you like a train. Colback is good. Again many of you hate him. I think you’re wrong. He’s no good in front of his box. He can’t play close to his own goal effectively but he’s brilliant at winning possession further up the pitch and finding team mates when possession is won. He and Tiote have it all to do against a talented City midfield. Up front Cisse will start I’m sure. Mitro is so good off the bench. He’s really good impacting the game. Cisse gives the side mobility in the sense gets about the pitch. I’ve no doubt many disagree but Cisse starting is the best option to keep us in the game. Benitez will be cautious, he always is. He’ll aim to be in the game by 60/70 mins. We look dangerous from set pieces (for the first time in a decade). This is a good thing.
I could contemplate various conetations of what a defeat or a draw means we’ll need from Liverpool, but let’s worry about that later. Let’s just go into this and hopefully Man City will face St James’ Park and a United team throwing everything at them. I think that’ll be enough.
Prediction – 2 1
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex @tfalex1892
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