Manchester United’s woeful 2019/20 season reached a fresh nadir after Newcastle United ground out a fully deserved 1-0 victory at St James’ Park.
This Red Devils team lacks the energy and verge that was promised – and hinted at on the pitch – during pre-season, as they barely mustered a chance against a side that had previously shipped 13 goals through seven Premier League games with one win to show for it.
It was Matty Longstaff’s superb long-range strike that provided the only moment of true class in the game, leaving United to head into the international break 12th in the table with eight points from a possible 24.
Here are our United ratings – and they make for grim reading.
MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1)
David De Gea – Must be questioning his decision to sign a fresh long-term contract, no matter how much money was thrown at him. All he had to do was pick the ball up out of the back of the net. 5
Diogo Dalot – Diligent and tried to push high to create width, but could not get past Jetro Willems on the left and give United the attacking outlet that they so desperately needed. 5
Axel Tuanzebe – If gloom wasn’t enveloping the club right now, Tuanzebe would rightly be lauded as one of the few players who deserves to be part of United’s long-term future. Outmuscled by Joelinton at times, but there was little penetration within the away side’s area. 7
Harry Maguire – Perhaps the most composed man on the field for United, but missed nearly hit the corner flag with a point-blank header in the first half. 6
Ashley Young – Come what may, the post-Fergie tactic of letting Young swinging in quixotic crosses into the box never seems to get old. Not good enough – but that’s not really his fault anymore. 4
Fred – Has the touch of a ping-pong table. Every time he receives the ball it seems to rebound off a tangle of legs, or metres away from his intended target. 3
Scott McTominay – United’s best midfielder certainly wasn’t at his best today. Struggled to retain possession and was outplayed by the Longstaff brothers. No wonder the Red Devils has a strong interest in bringing big brother Sean to the club 4
Juan Mata – Not just a step – a long, loping stride too slow. These are games in which the Spaniard should still be useful, prying open space between the two banks of four. All of that ingenuity seems to have disappeared with the little pace he once had 3
Daniel James – The brightest – or least dim – spark up top for United, winning a couple of free-kicks and flinging in some dangerous crosses from the left and right. No one was home 6
Andreas Pereira – Playing out of position or not, Pereira makes almost as little impact as a physically inferior Mata. A playmaker who struggles to make plays 4
Marcus Rashford – Can hardly be blamed for the pitiful slops he was being served, but where is the instinctive striker United had hoped to develop? Schar nipped one ball of his toes, but there’s no urgency or guile to his runs forward. 4
Marcos Rojo – Threw himself about for half an hour with Dalot off injured and was risibly handed the armband with Young off the field of the last few minutes. 5
Mason Greenwood – 1-0 down at a bouncing Newcastle, it was unfair to expect the freshly minted 18-year-old to be able to eke life out of a listless team performance. 5
Tahith Chong – N/A
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Ryan Giggs says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs five new players to revive Manchester United.
United have taken only nine points from seven games to make their worst start to a top-flight campaign for 30 years.
Solskjaer’s side have not scored more than one goal in a match since an opening-day win over Chelsea – and hopes of a top-four spot at Old Trafford appear a distant prospect.
Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James were recruited this summer at a cost of £145million, but United great Giggs says much more is needed for the club to recapture past glories.
“They need another four or five players,” Wales manager Giggs said ahead of United’s Sunday visit to Newcastle.
“He (Solskjaer) has bought in three players but he probably needs seven or eight (altogether).
“But you can’t do that over one transfer window, so you have to be patient because it will be slow.
“The culture has changed and what he is trying to do was much needed. He needs time.”
Steve Bruce, another one of Giggs’ former United team-mates, has his own problems at Newcastle with the Magpies in the relegation zone.
Newcastle have only won once this season and Bruce accused his players of “complete surrender” after their 5-0 thrashing at Leicester last weekend.
“I knew Brucey as a player and he was a leader,” Giggs said.
“I’ve also spoken to players who have played for him and they have enjoyed it. It’s a tough club, Newcastle.
“When you don’t win regularly at big clubs you are going to get criticised.
“But Brucey and Ole are big enough characters to turn it around, with time and a bit of luck. Every manager needs that.”
The fortunes of the two clubs are a long way from when they were battling each other for the Premier League title in the 1990s.
Giggs played in some great games between them when Sir Alex Ferguson’s United held the edge over Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle.
“The one that stands out is the game we got battered and won 1-0,” Giggs recalled of a March 1996 game on Tyneside.
“Peter Schmeichel kept us in the game and then Eric (Cantona) popped up to score the winner like he did that season.
“It’s my biggest memory. We always did well there.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows it is vital Manchester United win at Newcastle United on Sunday in order to “change the mood” at the club.
The Red Devils have endured a difficult start to the season and have only nine points after seven Premier League games.
A big problem for Man United has been a lack of victories on the road, dating back to the 3-1 Champions League success over Paris Saint-Germain in March.
On Thursday, Solskjaer declared he was “very pleased” with the performance in the goalless draw at AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League.
However, the former striker is well aware of the need for wins and believes a victory at St James Park could give everyone at the club a much-needed lift before a break in the schedule for the latest round of international games.
“Of course you don’t enjoy not winning games because you put your life, heart and soul into this club when you become part of it and you want to do well,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.
“In this job when you win games of course your mood is better and you’re happier. It doesn’t mean your performances have been great, but results change the mood.
“For us to get a result, it is vital now because I think it will change the mood and the boys can go away for the international break and freshen up their heads.”
Solskjaer will be taking on ex-United defender Steve Bruce, who has only achieved one league victory since taking over at Newcastle this summer.