The narrative of this game will be of course be the performance of Andre Marriner and his officials. The general football public will have their opinion formed largely by the highlights show Match of The Day. The tabloid football press, with its one dimensional view of the game will, as ever, focus on a few highlights, post-match interviews and fail to highlight the inconsistencies and failings of a Premier League referee and his officials who were rank throughout.
For the record, yes, Arsenal should have had a penalty in the first half as they attacked the Leazes End where Thauvin accidentally clicked the heels of Héctor Bellerín. Accident or not, that was a penalty.
Dealing with the main incident of Mitrovic’s sending off and you cannot separate it from the yellow card Marriner gave to Sissoko only minutes earlier. Both were for the same offence but one is a yellow and the other a Red. That’s a nonsense! Both were fouls of that there is no doubt. But why the Red for Mitrovic? This is a problem of referees having their heads filled with the nonsense of football’s chattering classes and their knee-jerk desperate need to provide click-bait for their advertisers. For evidence of this, I recommend you have a read of Steve Stammers’ lamentable match report in The Mirror, which isn’t even one-dimensional. It might have been written by someone on the top deck of the No.40 trundling up Barrack Road at 1:30. It’s a complete load of shite.
The narrative of Mitrovic as a hot-head who has picked up two yellow cards in his first two cameo substitutions and who had a colourful career in Belgium! None of these experts are really clued up about Belgium so just stick to the two sub appearances. In the interests of their pathetic agenda, forget about his excellent performance at Old Trafford last week when he led the line brilliantly and was on the end of some really rough-house treatment from the Man Utd backline. Ignore that though, it doesn’t fit with the narrative.
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever had the tackle been from Walcott on say Sissoko, there may not even have been any card given at all. This is the nature of refereeing in the Premier League in 2015. We will see plenty more of it this season.
The highlights show will not demonstrate Marriner and his officials getting so many of the basics of refereeing plain wrong. By way of example in the run up to the Arsenal goal, the ball had been out of play on the Milburn side, Gallowgate half. I know because I was one of the thousands howling at the linesman for his error and I know he wasn’t even looking at the ball as it went out of play. As was Steve McClaren who saw exactly what every person in the Milburn saw and a fair chunk of the Gallowgate. A matter of seconds later it’s in the back of our net. There was another incident when the ball had again gone out of play at the Gallowgate End and that was missed by the Referee and the linesman. There was another incident similar in the first half across at the East Stand, Leazes half but I’m not 100% sighted on that.
What will also go without mention is the diving and blatant feigning of injury by Arsene Wenger’s team. For all the supposed physicality of our United team, I don’t think I saw an Arsenal sponge on the pitch all game. I don’t think they lost a player to injury or made any substitutions for that reason.
There will also be little analysis of Marriner’s complete and utter failure to punish Arsenal’s series of professional fouls as we broke forward and had players checked and pulled back. What advantage we gained in several of those moments is open to debate but any half-way decent referee would have followed them up by pulling back play and issuing yellow cards for cynical foul play. Marriner is far from a decent referee.
For the record, Arsenal’s play was excellent. They are a million miles better than us at playing possession and passing football. They are a team who are really good to watch and on the balance of play I have no complaint to them picking up three points.
There were several reasons however at the end of the game why the vast majority of the United faithful stayed to the final whistle and applauded the team off. One was because many of us felt we had been the victims of unjust and incompetent refereeing but had failed to crumble and fall on the end of a good hiding as we unquestionably would have done had Pardew and especially Carver been in the dug-out. I was happy to applaud the team’s spirit and resilience.
I believe the home support recognised McClaren’s progress with this team. As was demonstrated at Old Trafford last week our team looks more defensively organised this season than it has for a number of years. Remember in successive weeks Man U and Arsenal have failed to score against us. The Arsenal goal was a speculative cross goal shot that unfortunately caught the heel of Colo. That is something to view very positively because last season defensively we were shambolic.
There are also individual performances that are worthy of mention as well.
Tim Krul looks more like the ‘keeper he was eighteen months ago and appears now to thriving again in a post-Woodman era. He looks confident, agile and as well as getting the basics right, he’s also pulling off saves that keep us in games. You might point to less than perfect kicking but the glass is far more half full than empty as far as Krul is concerned.
I had thought our Capitano’s powers were on the wane and God knows what games were being played in the summer regarding his future. But he’s put in successive performances against top level opposition which show his previous intelligence, anticipation, authority and organisational skills are far from gone. It may well be that the anxiety caused by the UXB that is Mike Williamson and the arrival of Chancel Mbemba and return from injury of Steven Taylor have given Colo a new lease of life. I don’t know really but I do know I enjoy watching one of the finest defenders I’ve seen in 40+ years watching United back to something approaching his best.
As a unit our defence already looks light years better than what it has been in recent seasons. I’ve enjoyed watching our team forming a solid, tight, hard-working unit which for all their possession Man United and Arsenal failed to break down. Lots of us (myself included) identified the left-back spot as one that might needed strengthening and while that may well be the case it would be churlish not to recognise the two good games Haidara has just had.
Thauvin has already done more in his young United career than Cabella did the whole of last season and in Wijnaldum we have a player who already looks like he belongs in the Premier League and who I expect will become stronger and stronger.
I’m also happier with our bench than at any time over the recent years and it’s a real positive that we can bring Ayoze Perez off the bench with Siem De Jong. I still think we are short of creativity and goals but it would be plain silly to fail to recognise the improvement in quality available for selection this season as opposed to last.
We will spend the international break in the bottom three and we know goals could be in more plentiful supply as could creativity. This is a team that is showing positive signs though I don’t believe it is anywhere near to achieving Mike Ashley’s target of a top 6 placing this season without additional investment over the next few days. But there is reason to believe things are getting better and why McClaren is earning our confidence.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Daryl Janmaat, Chancel Mbemba, Fabricio Coloccini, Massimo Haidara, Vurnon Anita (Ayoze Perez 72), Jack Colback, Moussa Sissoko (Papiss Cisse 78), Georginio Wijnaldum, Florian Thauvin (Siem De Jong 87), Alek Mitrovic.
Unused Subs: Gabriel Obertan, Chieck Tiote, Karl Darlow, Steven Taylor.
Man of the Match: Fabricio Colocinni
Our Fans: 8/10: Solid. Defiant.
Their Fans: 6/10: Good numbers. Dull. Quiet.