Coming back from 2-0 down, Old Trafford bouncing at the end, free-kicks being scored, great interplay, late winners, Saturday’s game could have been one from the halcyon days of the Sir Alex Ferguson. Yes, it was against a winless Newcastle side whose current predicament between the manager and owner makes United look positively harmonious, but a win is a win and it was much-needed.
1. Paul Pogba in a deeper role could be the key.
Whether it was the manager’s choice or he consulted the player who suggested it himself is irrelevant. For the second half at Old Trafford – in particular the last half hour, Pogba, operating just in front of the defence but getting forward at every opportunity was magnificent. Whether it was switching the play across the Old Trafford pitch, getting involved in trying to break up Newcastle’s attacks, launching United’s own or linking up with the attackers, this was Pogba at his finest. The Newcastle team just simply couldn’t cope and it was a timely reminder of just how vital an on-song Paul Pogba could be to this football club.
2. There’s still life in Alexis Sanchez’s United career.
Okay a headed goal against relegation strugglers doesn’t mask the fact that the former Arsenal player has been something of a disastrous signing but helping the Reds win all three points and the passion he showed at the end, could finally help spark Sanchez’s United career. It’s a step in the right direction and let’s hope it continues as a firing Sanchez could be the difference between United ending the season with some silverware.
3. A new defender is needed in January.
We know Jose wanted one in the summer and didn’t get one but United cannot continue chopping and changing in the heart of the defence, with midfielders picking up the pieces and a non-stop merry-go-round involving new signings, older heads and young Scotsmen. It’s ridiculous how often the United back four/five/three changes during a match. Jose needs to stop trying to prove a point by playing Scott McTominay at centre back – surely the only reason he plays him there – but that aside, the Reds lack a dominant player in the middle of defence and the current squad simply doesn’t contain one.
4. Juan Mata shouldn’t be United’s forgotten man.
You can change the name Juan Mata for Anthony Martial as both were excellent in the second half at Old Trafford, but rather than opening up the tired debate about Martial FC etc, one that we can now all agree needs to end and he should start every week, it’s time to look at you Juan, Juan. Mata was superb on Saturday and made a real difference not just with his free kick but his effort, passing, touch and link up play. With all the drama surrounding the likes of Sanchez, Martial and Pogba it’s almost been forgotten that United have a truly gifted player who would stroll into most teams. Mata can be a joy to watch on his day and Saturday was certainly one of them.
5. Old Trafford can still produce an atmosphere.
No matter how frustrating the season has been and how negative the football is or how much the off the field stories have demoralised us, the fans showed on Saturday they can get behind the team and the manager. Even during the first half when the team were trailing 2-0 the Old Trafford faithful were in good voice and by the end the place was living up to its moniker. Yes it’s Newcastle but so what? We wanted to enjoy the moment and we did. UTFR.