Electric scenes unfolded at Old Trafford as Manchester United staged a comeback, having gone 2-0 down in the first 10 minutes itself to making it 3-2 in the 90th minute against Newcastle United.
Jubilant efforts from the squad in the second half underscored their bigger first-half problems, as Juan Mata’s free-kick opened up hope before Anthony Martial set the stage with his beautiful goal. and Alexis Sanchez closed it with a well-crowned header.
The game had much to talk about, and here are its biggest takeaways:
1. Another Mourinho-Benitez Classic
When it is these two gaffers at the helm, the sides they play with may not even matter. Ancient rivals and fierce competitors, Old Trafford saw two maestros indulge in another fine battle.
Benitez came into the game with his side poised quite scarily on the Premier League table, hope scarce, while the doubt pinned on Mourinho didn’t help matters either.
However, when it was 2-0 up within 10 minutes itself, the tactical game was on, and Rafa played his part quite well. But in the end, it was Mourinho’s substitutions and earnest pleas – he was even on his knees before the winner was scored – that came out on top.
2. Sanchez Redeems Himself?
Alexis Sanchez was the unlikely hero with his well-headed winner. However, Mourinho’s response or lack thereof does beg the bigger question as to whether the Chilean forward has redeemed himself.
Reports going into the game claimed that Mourinho had expressly told him that if no improvements were to be seen in his efforts, then Sanchez wouldn’t start again.
Sure enough, the former Gunner was on the bench at the start of the fixture, and wasn’t brought on till well into the 67th minute, that too by virtue of Rashford missing chance after chance.
While Mourinho’s lack of excitement over the winner can also be attributed to the fact that the gaffer may have been prepping instruction to secure three points, the jury may still be out there on Sanchez’s hopes for starting again.
3. Newcastle Have Hope
Seeing the way the Magpies performed on Saturday, one wouldn’t have remarked that the side sat deep within the trenches of the relegation zone.
In fact, them going 2-0 up at Old Trafford within 10 minutes is the first time any side has ever achieved the feat. Further still, their first-half shots reached a figure that the home crowd hasn’t seen since 2005.
The likes of Shelvey, Muto, Kenedy, and Perez all put in brilliant shows, and while three points were well and truly robbed of them here, Benitez may not have to worry about being relegated for too long.
If they get their simple errors sorted out, then Newcastle can continue to be the quintessential Premier League side that giants will think twice before underestimating.
4. The Bigger Worries
While the win, the Red Devils’ first in four games across all competitions, will be greeted with a massive sigh of relief, the bigger problems are still out there to be debated.
The side made pathetic mistakes, leading into an erstwhile defensive team causing errors and going two goals down as early as they did.
Eric Bailly showed absolutely no signs of the sort of centre-back that Mourinho desired. On the same matter, the gaffer not trusting Lindelof for the task, both for starting as well as for a more worthy switch at the spot than the likes of McTominay, won’t do wonders for the Swede’s confidence either.
Then there’s the matter of the disconnected nature that United’s midfield and forwards dallied around about. No semblance of order was seen for much of the game, and their eventual goals came more as a result of storming the opposition and leaving their defense open – tactics they can’t afford to pursue without getting punished when they face Chelsea and Juventus next. These errors must be rectified, and quickly at that.
5. International Break For Introspection
Manchester United next face action as a team only on the 20th of October, when Chelsea will await them at the Bridge, another intimidating opponent. Until then, the international break will give all parties a welcome chance to iron out their differences.
The alleged rapport woes that Mourinho has with his star players is the first thing that ought to be looked into, with egos demanding to be quietened.
Further, their tactical errors must be rectified, and if Mourinho remains the manager at the end of the break, then his drawing table better be riddled with plans to bring United back from the precarious spot they currently occupy on almost all fronts.
The same also applies for Newcastle, who instead have to work on survival in the top flight, and must try and boost themselves up well before the winter window.