Last week wasn’t a good one for us as you all know. Losing two games on the spin by the finest of margins when the entertainment has been at a premium wasn’t great but maybe to be expected in a season when staying up is the main priority. Clearly we’d all love to see us ripping the division apart, playing the kind of KK-style football of the 90s vintage but sadly we don’t have the modern day equivalent of Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley up top. You’ve noticed.
We are in the position we are in, losing to modest opposition by fine margins because we don’t have a surfeit of attacking talent. This was confirmed on 1/Sep/17 when Ashley demonstrated once again he really does need to get out of our club.
At the risk of boring you all more than usual, I’ll repeat my line that I like this group of players. I think they give everything for the shirt but that doesn’t mean on occasion they won’t be unlucky, play badly or be outplayed and lose. Similarly, I regard Rafa Benitez as a lottery win for Newcastle United and his presence potentially seminal in busting us out of this cycle we’ve been in for most of my life following the club. He’s a world class manager and a good man. But he’ll make the odd mistake and with a limited pool of players at his disposal with restricted options as to how to deploy them, equally committed coaches will sometimes out-wit him.
Over the last couple of games I’ve noticed that Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu haven’t had the same impact in the opposition half as they had in previous games. They have been pushed back and spent a lot of games supporting the full-backs whilst forward play has been limited to Shelvey’s more speculative passing and Merino has been a big miss in the centre of the park.
I didn’t understand the calls for Mitrovich on Saturday. And I don’t understand the abuse going the way of Joselu either when whoever is playing up top is going to be feeding on scraps if we don’t get a hold of the middle of the park and bring Ritchie and Atsu into the game with the full-backs getting forward as well. This is Mitro’s third season at United and I don’t really see much improvement in him. Rafa didn’t trust him in the Championship and I don’t think he’ll trust him in the PL. There is the discipline issue with him – that 3-match ban he picked up from the West Ham game was sadly predictable but in his general game I really don’t see much of a justification in starting him.
Every supporter is entitled to an opinion (though abuse is something else) and for me Mitro won’t ever make it in the PL as a 15 goal a season striker. He doesn’t look like he has sufficient pace, movement and his aerial ability is lamentable. Am I the only one who thinks he could drop a few pounds? For a rumoured hard man striker, I don’t think I’ve seen him dominate a centre half (and pretending to want to fight someone or put in snide fouls doesn’t count) whilst the diving around and lack of discipline doesn’t endear him much to me. That said, when he comes on I want him to do well and if a penny drops with him and he convinces Rafa in training he can do it for us, I’ll be delighted if he comes good.
I see a bit to admire in Joselu. I know he’s not Marco Van Basten but you tend not to be able to sign that class of player from Stoke City Reserves for £5m. I think he works hard, is well-disciplined and for that reason alone needs our support and encouragement. The same applies to Perez and anyone else pulling on a United shirt. These lads aren’t the same as those who chucked it in time after time whilst putting on shows for the clubs they really wanted to play for.
For some reason, some supporters believe they are entitled to abuse our players. Social media is toxic after a defeat as the toys come out of the pram and some of the descriptions of our players are appalling. We have some players who want to engage with fans on social media but for some soc-called supporters they are unable to distinguish between a well-reasoned criticism and an expletive laden volley of abuse. Footballers are expected to take it the logic runs because … they get paid fortunes … and that’s about it. It isn’t the case.
For some players it will be water off a duck’s back. For others it will be sickening and destructive. It will also change how they view the supporters of the club. I’ve heard it said privately by some ex-players they are glad to be away from United because of the venom in the abuse when things aren’t going well here. I can imagine SJP to be a lonely place if you are a home player struggling in a game. That may apply as well to other clubs but frankly I’m not really interested in what goes on elsewhere, its here where it matters. The booing on the full time whistle? For the officials? Hmm, I’m not convinced.
I’ve had exchanges with people on social media with fans who in no uncertain terms have told me they feel entitled to boo players. I’m startled by that because there is no way that is going to help and before anyone asks yes there have been plenty moments over the years when I’ve expressed my disappointment and barked at the moon. But booing? Never! It’s not an opinion and it doesn’t help.
What’s happening with the takeover? No-one really knows for certain but I am expecting to wake up one morning to the news it’s all done and dusted. I imagine there is a fair bit of haggling over the price and the shape of the deal right now. Neither party will want that fine detail in the public eye and it just isn’t going to be.
The real and particularly the business world doesn’t work like a reality TV show and we are going to have to be patient. I remain confident.
If there was any positive I drew from last week’s two narrow defeats and it is those losses put more pressure on Ashley to sell. Each defeat reduces the odds on United being in the PL next season and the need for investment in key positions in January. Ashley does not want to be releasing funds to invest in a football club he really does want to sell and for which he clearly has absolutely no ambition or love. Therefore there is considerable pressure upon him and with a run of games up and coming which look all the more difficult to the one we’ve just had the heat is going to be turned up on him. Were he to get to January and somehow still own United and then again fail to release funds for Rafa, I find it difficult to see any other outcome than the club losing its world class manager. That would significantly reduce the value of Newcastle United and put us into a tailspin. Ashley has to sell. It makes absolutely no sense for him to hang onto the club. He is at the end of the road now. Take whatever deal is on the table from the Staveley camp and do one. Quickly.
Next up is Man Utd (a). It’s never easy going there as our record over the last 40 years amply demonstrates. There will be a sold out away end in good voice. I don’t expect we’ll see much of the ball but I think that’s Rafa’s game plan given the hand he’s been dealt with regard to the squad he has ended up with. I’m looking forward to it. I always enjoy the visit to Old Trafford. Nothing is expected of us and my theory is as a group of fans and players we rather suit being the under-dogs and we’ll certainly be that in the Borough of Trafford.
We’ll see the players give 100% and that’s all we can ask of a team put together on a shoe-string.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
MICHAEL MARTIN – FOLLOW MICHAEL ON @tfMichael1892
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