Krul to the fore as blunt Man United attack may force Van Gaal's hand in transfer market
Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0
Manchester United returned to the top of the Premier League, temporarily at least, but there was ultimately frustration at Old Trafford after this goalless draw against Newcastle United which highlighted the desperate need for Louis Van Gaal to strengthen his attack.
The week in which United did not sign Pedro from Barcelona was not a good one to end without managing to score while Newcastle will draw encouragement from this point – and performance. Both sides struck the frame of the goal.
It was a break-neck start. Wayne Rooney had the ball in the net – ruled out for offside – and then drove in a low shot that Tim Krul held. A free-kick was won with Juan Mata curling in a left-foot effort that was also comfortably dealt with by Krul.
There was one change for Man Utd with Bastian Schweinsteiger awarded his first start as Louis Van Gaal declared he had to manage Michael Carrick, who spent much of the last campaign injured.
Van Gaal also, in his programme notes, welcomed Newcastle manager Steve McClaren – with a reminder that the pair had come across each other twice before. In Holland – when Van Gaal’s AZ Alkmaar won the league over McClaren’s FC Twente.
And in Germany – when Van Gaal’s Bayern Munich won the league over McClaren’s Wolfsburg. McClaren is not expected to challenge for the title this season. Van Gaal is.
Mata went closer. Matteo Darmian broke into the Newcastle penalty area, heading the ball to Mata who cut inside and struck a low shot that Krul dived smartly to push away.
Newcastle needed some respite and earned it after Massadio Haidara won a free-kick and then as Man Utd struggled to clear the defender was played in by Georginio Wijnaldum with an alert first-time pass. Daley Blind intervened as Haidara lunged at him with the Newcastle full-back cautioned.
There were three changes for Newcastle including new signing Aleksandar Mitrovic who then powered a header, from Chancel Mbemba’s cross, that had Sergio Romero beaten – only to cannon back off the cross-bar. Stung Man Utd responded with Memphis Depay rounding Krul but failing to pick out a team-mate as he cut the ball back.
Newcastle seemed the sharper. Man Utd were lacking urgency, too deliberate in their passes, too many touches taken by their attacking players, too incccurate in their crossing and it encouraged the visitors, for whom Mitrovic was also proving a threat and Ayoze Perez dragged a shot narrowly wide.
After half-time and Man Utd became more entrenched in the Newcastle half but, time and again, opportunities went. Depay’s free-kick struck the wall, Chris Smalling failed to connect properly with a corner and Van Gaal decided to bring on Javier Hernandez in search of that goal.
McClaren responded with a change of his own – a debut for new signing Florian Thauvin, a £12million signing from Marseille, with, for Man Utd, Morgan Schneiderlin then releasing Rooney down the left. His cross picked out Mata only for the midfielder to volley over. “Attack, attack, attack,” chanted the home supporters and the level of frustration began to climb.
Luke Shaw then combined with his former Southampton team-mate Schneiderlin who dragged the ball back into the defender’s path. Shaw’s first-time shot was held by Krul before, finally, a chance opened up. Mata’s shot ricocheted to Hernandez who was clear on goal and did little wrong as he drove the ball back across Krul only for the goalkeeper to save superbly with an outstretched leg.
Wave after wave of attack broke on the Newcastle defence with the ball falling to substitute Antonio Valencia who also appeared set to score before the ball was deflected for a corner off Fabricio Coloccini’s back.
Soon after and a Smalling header, from a corner, came back off the post and then, incredibly, Newcatle broke quickly with substitute Papiss Cisse eventually crossing low and only marginally in front of the onrushing Thauvin.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
Racing pundit and Newcastle fan John McCririck
@RealMcCririck "Krul + the Gang stirring defence. Toon @NUFC grabbing pt miraculous Best 0-0 draw of whole season? #HowayTheLads ! Brill Watch out Gunners!"
ROMERO: 6 out of 10
Fabricio Coloccini: Newcastle looked inept at the back against Swansea last week but today they were rigid and never lost concentration. Coloccini was the stand-out performer in the back four, throwing his body on the line when it mattered, particularly in the dying stages.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Tim Krul's save from Javier Hernandez. Krul was just as key to the result as Coloccini's efforts in front of him. The ball fell to Hernandez in the box in the 79th minute as United launched attack after attack but Krul came storming off his line and stretched his arms to deny the Mexican.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Steve McClaren resisted the temptation to give Florian Thauvin his full debut and instead chose to pack the midfield, with Aleksandar Mitrovic playing as a lone striker. The move paid off as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin had little impact on the game.
Van Gaal bemoaned his team's failure to break down well-organised defensively-minded teams when they came to Old Trafford last year and he is yet to find a solution. Memphis Depay threatened occasionally but the hosts rarely looked like they were capable of scoring.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Wayne Rooney: Failed once more in front of goal. Van Gaal insists Rooney is capable of leading the line for United, but he has now failed to score in 10 matches. Van Gaal's faith in the striker is admirable, but on this evidence the skipper is not up to the job.