Newcastle began the New Year in fine style with a fully deserved 3-0 win over Manchester United, producing one of their best performances in recent years to outplay the reigning Premier League champions. It was Newcastle’s first win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side since 2001 on the same day that the club’s latest kit sponsor, Virgin Money, was unveiled.
While all 11 players who started the game performed admirably there were two in particular who stood out. African duo Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote were both on top form to underline their importance to the club. This could be the pair’s last game for up to six weeks as they are both set to travel to the Africa Cup of Nations in the coming days.
In central midfield Tiote was immense as he crunched into challenges while also displaying composure on the ball. With the opposition crying out for a dominant central midfielder they could do worse then look at the Ivory Coast international. Ba once more underlined his pedigree with another great finish to make it 15 goals for the season. He pressured the opposition’s defenders all game both in the aerial battles and on the ground. It remains to be seen how Newcastle will cope without the duo in the coming weeks.
If Manchester United fail to win the league this campaign then Newcastle will be an important factor in their disappointment. This result meant that the Red Devils have taken only one point from their two meetings this season. Significantly for Alan Pardew this was the Magpies’ first victory over a top six side and should provide more belief in the squad for future clashes with the big boys.
Pardew got his tactics correct on Wednesday night as he looked to exploit a perceived weakness in Manchester United’s defence. He opted for an adventurous 4-4-2 formation with Shola Ameobi partnering Ba in attack. With a howling wind at their backs Newcastle looked to get the ball forward quickly into their powerful forwards. After the game Pardew told the Evening Chronicle: “We controlled the game for long periods. We had a grip of the game, we went a little bit more direct, and it paid dividends for us. That doesn’t mean to say we’ll do it against Blackburn on Saturday, or anybody else, but it worked.”
Newcastle next have another home game with an FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers. Ba and Tiote are likely to miss the game despite the Africa Cup of Nations not starting for another two weeks. The outstanding Yohan Cabaye could also miss the game after picking up a knock on Wednesday. With a number of other injury problems there could be starts for Harris Vuckic and Dan Gosling.
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