Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benitez find themselves in similar dire situations. Manchester United and Newcastle are struggling and the two respected European coaches, working for abysmal owners, contributing to a realisation of lower expectations, are expected to discover a way to turn it around.
There’s a lot to discuss. United are currently on a four-match winless run and while Mourinho always seems to find a way to blame anyone but him, he needs his players who have been publicly humiliated on a number of occasions to respond. Newcastle have just two points from seven games and look like contenders to face the drop. The only reliable prediction is a dour game of football.
Here are three big questions ahead of Manchester United v Newcastle:
- Will Man Utd decide to come out of the blocks and overwhelm Newcastle with star attackers available?
In the first three minutes against away to West Ham last weekend, United were willing to soak pressure and hit The Hammers on the break. Except it didn’t work out and the intense pressure created by Manuel Pellegrini’s men resulted in an early opener through Felipe Anderson.
Especially against lower standard teams, United should be pro-active rather than reactive and chasing games. Even Derby County, a Championship side, came to Old Trafford knowing they could get a result. Newcastle will do the same unless this changes.
United have attacking players to hurt teams — Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata — and Mourinho is not utilising them properly. Instead, they feed on scraps whereas a more aggressive approach could see Lukaku and co put teams away before it’s too late.
- Can Lukaku rediscover his form against a weak Newcastle side?
The Belgian is often criticised for not doing it against the big teams, although rarely seems to struggle when playing for his country. Throw him into the Tottenham side and he would have more goals to his name because they create chances on the front foot whereas at United he is expected to feed on very little.
Though Lukaku’s form of late has been abysmal, it’s not just down to his conversion rate in front of goal. His overall game has been sloppy and a couple of defensive runs won’t sugar coat that – every player is expected to put in a shift — and it’s not his job anyway.
Romelu Lukaku isn’t perfect, but i’m so glad we signed him instead of Alvaro Morata. Think he’s doing badly at Chelsea? Imagine if he was in our team.
— Sibs 🐝🔰 (@SibsMUFC) October 4, 2018
All attacking players go through dry spells – even Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus earlier this season – and, as they said, form is temporary and class is permanent. Lukaku will come out of this and add to his tally for the season, but we really need our main stars to show up if results are to improve. A good Lukaku will destroy this struggling Newcastle side.
- Is Luke Shaw the most important player on the pitch, both in attack and defence?
United’s left-back continues to shut up critics who suggested he was finished at the club after having his attitude and desire questioned by Mourinho, but in fairness to the manager, he’s always given Shaw that lifeline to come back and fight for his United career.
Shaw deservedly won United’s Player of the Month award in August and September. Going forward, our midfield doesn’t carry out that transition quite as well as the England international, who he is quick enough to bomb forward, whip in a cross and to get back before carrying out his defensive duties.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 4, 2018
This should be complimenting Lukaku better and communication is key with whoever takes up the left wing role. It doesn’t help Shaw that he nor anybody knows who Mourinho truly prefers in that attacking position, as I’m sure Gary Neville found it beneficial knowing he was playing with either David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo each week.
Things would be a lot worse if Shaw didn’t hit this form from the start of the season.