09:05 pm
26 October 2016

Man United 0-0 Newcastle: 5 things we learned as Red Devils slump

The Red Devils faded after a promising start, in which Rooney saw a strike chalked off, with Newcastle delivering a resolute performance.

Manchester United slumped to a goalless draw at home to Newcastle United as Louis van Gaal was left counting the cost of a disallowed Wayne Rooney goal.

The Red Devils faded after a promising start, in which Rooney saw a strike chalked off that appeared, on second glance, to have been marginally onside.

Substitute Javier Hernandez missed a terrific chance late-on, but only after Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic had rattled the crossbar with a thumping header.

But what did we learn?

David McDonnell gives us his major takeaways from a frustrating United performance at Old Trafford

1. United’s full-back’s can make the difference this season

Impressive: Shaw has had a good start to the season

Last season United were vulnerable in both full-back positions.

Luke Shaw’s persistent injury problems restricted him to 16 Premier League starts at left-back, which meant Daley Blind filling in there, as well as Ashley Young, while at right-back Louis van Gaal’s lack of faith in Rafael saw midfielder Antonio Valencia deployed there for most of the campaign.

This season, it’s a different story. Shaw looks leaner, fitter and sharper, and is beginning to justify his £27m fee, while £14m summer signing Matteo Darmian continues to impress at right-back, combining defensive diligence with an attacking mindset, never more so than against Newcastle, with both him and Shaw excelling in their roles, despite both picking up cautions.

2. Schweinsteiger offered little on first Premier League start

Manchester United v Newcastle United
Quiet: Schweinteiger wasn’t effective on his first start

Van Gaal handed Schweinsteiger his first Premier League start, picking him ahead of Michael Carrick, in the only change to United’s line-up.

But the former Bayern Munich midfiedler and Germany World Cup winner offered little in the middle, looking leggy and lacking match sharpness.

The 30-year-old, who has suffered from knee problems for the past four seasons, was limping after half-an-hour and it was little surprise when he was replaced by Carrick just before the hour.

Schweinsteiger received a decent ovation from the Old Trafford crowd when he went off, but he will need to do more in the coming weeks and months to justify the frenzied hype that greeted his arrival from Bayern this summer.

3. Januzaj looks reborn after second season syndrome

Manchester United v Newcastle United
Belgian: Januzaj takes on Jack Colback

Januzaj was one of the biggest casualties of van Gaal’s first season at United, making just eight starts, after his stunning breakthrough campaign under David Moyes the previous year.

Januzaj, along with team-mate Shaw, went to Doha ahead of pre-season to undergo a fitness boot camp with a member of the club’s fitness staff, and the move looks to have paid off for both. Januzaj, starting for the third game running, looks re-energised and is proving a real handful in the No.10 role behind striker Wayne Rooney.

The young Belgium star’s guile, vision and trickery have seen him justify his continued inclusion and suggest last season’s woes were a minor blip in his development as a player of real pedigree.

His only black mark came with a shocking dive just before he was subbed with 23 minutes left, for which he was lucky not to be booked.

4. Rooney continues to drop deep in search of influence

Manchester United v Newcastle United
Out of sorts: Rooney has endured a frustrating campaign so far

United skipper Rooney came into the game under huge pressure to score and rediscover his best form, after admitting he has struggled so far this season.

Van Gaal suggested Rooney’s honesty about his form had served to put the forward under even greater scrutiny, and so it proved.

If Rooney is to score the 20-plus goals he and van Gaal believe he can plunder this season, he needs to stop dropping deep into midfield to try to influence the game, and be more disciplined positionally, remaining at the apex of the attack, where, without him, United have no-one to put the ball away.

A new striker will help spread the burden of trying to score and Rooney needs some help.

His natural inclination is to go searching for the ball, to try to make things happen, but until United sign another striker, he must remain up top.

5. Newcastle look to have invested well

Manchester United v Newcastle United
New boy: Mitrovic hits the woodwork

Newcastle are the fifth-biggest net spenders in Europe this season and second in the Premier League.

Only Real Madrid, AC Milan, Manchester City and Paris St Germain have spent more net than Steve McClaren’s side, and at Old Trafford they showed the wisdom of that outlay.

Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic had arguably the best chance of the game, striking the bar with a powerful header after beating Darmian to the ball, the £13m Serbia forward already looking a sound investment.

Fellow new signings Georginio Wijnaldum and Florian Thauvin, the latter coming on as a substitute, made decent contributions, while goalkeeper Tim Krul provided proof of his enduring value with key saves in either half, first from Mata and then from sub Chicharito, with 10 minutes left.

Against that backdrop, a point was the least they deserved here, with the performance something tangible to build on for McClaren and his players after a draw and a defeat in their opening two games.