The Premier League offered no respite to Manchester United after their Champions League travails, with Newcastle United proving as tough a nut to crack as Benfica as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side recorded another draw in an eminently winnable home game.
It may in part be down to the resolute form Newcastle have shown all season, when the Magpies have been more solid than sensational even through their unbeaten run early in the campaign, or it may have been down to the lack of strikers on the bench – Macheda was Ferguson’s only forward option in the absence of Danny Welbeck, Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen. Regardless, United have now not scored more than once in a Premier League game since defeating Norwich City 2-0 at Old Trafford on October 1, almost two months ago. In that time they have lost only once, to Manchester City, and have rarely been challenged to add to their tally by the likes of Everton and Swansea City, but when the opposition has stepped up the pressure United have been unable to rise above it.
There have been more than a couple of examples of United taking a goal’s lead and then sitting back. Indeed, against Everton at Goodison Park it was the home side doing all the pressing after falling behind, while the BBC described the performance against Swansea as: “…far from vintage… [United] struggled to find cohesion in the final third, adding: “[A late move] was the closest United came to reaching anywhere near top gear, but they did enough [for the three points].” United were not punished by Everton or Swansea but were against Newcastle, with the only positive from the weekend being that City did not extend their lead at the top of the table.
Getting through this period of profligacy is vital to United’s chances of pegging back their title and local rivals. With Aston Villa away, Wolverhampton Wanderers at home, Queens Park Rangers away, Fulham away and Wigan Athletic at home to come in their next five games, United should be disappointed if they do not come out of that run unbeaten. Five goals is unlikely to be enough to do so, however, so if United hope to retain their Premier League crown, re-finding their scoring boots soon must be the top priority.
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