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There used to be a time when the mere prospect of facing Manchester United used to instil a sense of fear among the opponents. At present though, even mid-table sides approach the fixture with a lot less caution and that was quite obvious in their most recent loss to Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. One might argue that the Magpies had the home advantage but the Red Devils looked like a mere shadow of their former selves.
The worst part? This is not even something one can brush off calling it a one-time thing because they have been performing like an over-cautious and overtly defensive unit for more than a year now. Or perhaps from the time when the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement. In fact, we have seen more threatening displays from the likes of Burnley and even Bournemouth this season and that does paint a worrisome prospect for the fans as well as the club.
Although they continue to grace the 2nd spot in the league standings, these poor displays are just unacceptable. When David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were in charge, one could argue that they did not have many celebrated attackers. Now, even with a team filled with attackers like Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard, United are continuing to falter on a consistent basis.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that when Manchester City visited St. James’ Park, the Magpies put in a deeply-defensive display to minimise the damage and came out with a 1-0 loss. Against United though, Newcastle were the ones who dictated the game.
They took full advantage of the visitors’ lacklustre display and exploited them on every single occasion. The most unfortunate part is that one cannot blame them. Against sides like City, Liverpool or even Arsenal, opponents have a sense of fear that they might get overrun on the counter-attack if they press too hard.
It is quite shocking to note that Newcastle felt no such fear against a club that is supposed to be the second-best in the league and that itself speaks volumes of how far United have fallen. Had Martin Dubravka not put in such a solid debut performance, perhaps the Red Devils could have walked away with a draw but the Magpies did fight hard for 3 points and the better team won at the end of the day.