Eighteenth of January 2014. The best part of three years ago. What’s happened in your life since then? Lots? Loads? Very little? This special day Yohan Cabaye score twice for NUFC on his final appearance. Hatem Ben Arfa and Loic Remy played for NUFC. It was the last time I saw Newcastle Unted win an away league game away from home. Since then I’ve been at Fulham, Stoke, Liverpool. Vile, West Ham, Burnley, Man utd, Everton, sunderland, Swansea, Man Utd, sunderland, West Brom, Everton, Stoke, Leicester, Norwich, Liverpool, Vile, Fulham. All without three points. Until now.
Massive three points, at that. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t nice. It was essential .
Rafa confounded expectation again by making several changes from Wednesday with Dummet, Shelvey and Perez all making way for Lascelles, Colback and Diame. More attacking than we thought. Bristol had started the season well with two wins out of three. Rafa had a plan.
The changes worked a treat as United served up 30 minutes of superb attacking football which Bristol struggled to live with. Colback and Hayden were aggressive and with Ritchie and Goufrann providing bundles of width, it was a matter of when, not if, United would take the lead.
It happened with a bit of majesty from our new front two in Diame and Gayle. Brilliantly weighted ball from Diame and lethal finish from Gayle. Gayle is a player. He has got a bit of everything. Fast enough but doesn’t rely on pace as his ‘attribute’, clinical enough but not a ‘finisher.’ It’ll be interesting to see how Gayle fits into the side when Mitrovic returns. Diame though. He’s clearly not fit. He faded badly after ’35. For those ’35 though. Head and shoulders above the rest. He’ll win us this league is he stays fit.
So a great goal after some close calls from set pieces (yes, we’re dangerous from corners these days) and I was thinking more to come. Wrong. United shut up shop. They realised what they were up against and fancied their odds. A much needed clean sheet followed. Welcome back, Jamal Lascelles. Confident and assured – he was superb The player who we fell in love with.
Second half it was all Bristol, to a degree. They played it short. They played it long. No clear cut chances created. A lot of teams at the level who have a dead fast, dead tricky winger who can and will embarrass full backs. These players are playing for Bristol City and Fulham and they look good. They play for Bristol and Fulham as they can’t shoot, pass or cross. United at the back were imperious. Clarke was good. Dead solid. So is Paul Dummet at left back but Clarke felt a little more assured on the ball. Mbemba shouldn’t be at this level. Anita all effort and quality. Very good.
The rest of the lads grafted. I think back to a stinking wet evening at Everton in February watching McClaren’s United expire. This was so different. Every player grafted. The subs know what they’re doing. The lads play for each other. No shirkers. Just graft. Three points for the Mags.
We’re up to 7th after a stinking start.
Matt Selz looks really poor. That’s me being negative but he’s not made a save in 4 games and he looks shocking off his line. I hope the clean sheet gives him confidence as there must be a good keeper in there somewhere.
Three games in a week. 6 points. The big one next weekend against Brighton. Massive game. Win that then it’s well and truly on. This United time have so many likeable players and qualities I don’t know where to start. Apart from winning away from home. A feeling I’d forgotten existed.
Work to be done, but we’re on our way.
Alex Hurst – You can follow Alex on @tfalex1892
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