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Manchester United's slump continued against Newcastle at Old Trafford but Goal's Brendon Netto highlights Alan Pardew's game plan and how it left the hosts helpless.

 Brendon Netto
 COMMENT | England
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The pressure inevitably piled onto David Moyes as Manchester United were stunned at Old Trafford once again, this time by Newcastle United. The 1-0 win for the Magpies was their first at the venue since 1972 and they were good value for it too. The shock of back-to-back defeats at ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ for United overshadowed Alan Pardew’s shrewd tactics.

The Newcastle boss would have paid close attention to United in recent weeks and without Michael Carrick in midfield and with Wayne Rooney suspended as well, he would’ve been well aware of their lack of creativity.

Newcastle didn’t come flying out of the blocks and they clearly made it a point not to go behind early on, which would’ve given the home support and players a huge lift. They remained compact without the ball and didn’t allow their hosts too many forays into their final third.

When in possession, they didn’t commit too many bodies forward. Their passing was controlled and aimed more at frustrating their opponents than carving them open and it worked like a charm. The home crowd was generally encouraging but in the second half, a sense of irritation hovered over the arena and the players certainly felt it.

The team looked nervy throughout the game. It was pretty evident that they were well aware of how damaging a defeat or even a draw would be. However, United have responded strongly in adversity over the years and even if they failed to bounce back, the performance or at least the attitude was always there to see.

They were fearless and that even showed when they suffered a 6-1 thrashing at home to Manchester City. They could have limited the damage at 3-0 but ventured forward and paid the price. However, their never-say-die attitude and fearlessness was commendable even if misguided.

Indeed, last season it seemed like they only started playing once they went behind. It's proved over the years that when facing United, scoring was possibly the most dangerous thing you could do because they would retaliate with force. However, apart from Adnan Januzaj’s efforts, United were well short in the creative department against Newcastle.

Phil Jones was exceedingly hard working in the middle of the park but showed just why he’s a center-back by trade and not a midfielder. His limited range of passing was exposed alongside an equally ineffective Tom Cleverley.

Jones was never able to pick out a penetrative forward pass as Newcastle stayed solid through the middle and was afforded little time on the ball in advanced areas. He ended up passing the ball sideways and backwards for the most part. Meanwhile, Cleverley looked like a player desperately short of confidence and a single diagonal ball to Rafael was the extent of his efforts to influence United’s build-up play. 

Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita served to shield the back four expertly while Yohan Cabaye was afforded the freedom to venture forward where his creativity and attacking threat could come to the fore as it did when he scored the solitary goal. That arrangement in midfield was vital to Pardew’s game plan.

Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy had a field day against Patrice Evra who just wasn’t at the races on the night and it’s that kind of listless performance that Moyes would hope his players would avoid in such trying times.

The Scot’s team selection was positive. With Januzaj, Nani, Robin van Persie, although not a hundred per cent fit, and Javier Hernandez starting, United certainly had the firepower to do the job but found it difficult to string moves together. Moyes even brought on Wilfried Zaha for his Premier League debut but to no avail.

Yes, United were disappointing and this transitional period is going to test their unity and resolve but credit must go to Pardew for his precise game plan and his players for executing it to perfection. Perhaps Moyes can find encouragement in the fact that Newcastle were just above the relegation places six games ago and now find themselves in 7th, a testament to how one’s fortunes could change with a good run in this season’s congested league.

Did Pardew's tactics prick away at United's weaknesses? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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