It has not been the easiest of starts to the season for Newcastle United, with poor results and difficult opponents combining for a frustrating opening run. Many would have thought that the trend was bound to continue at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Saturday evening. The first half was full of promise, until a familiar ending appeared out of nowhere.
The Magpies lost 3-2, but were extremely close to their first victory of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign. Kenedy and Yoshinori Muto gave Rafa Benitez’s side a first-half advantage with goals within a span of only three minutes. Newcastle were able to keep themselves in the match throughout the encounter, but a more motivated display from Manchester United in the second 45 minutes led to Anthony Martial's equaliser and a winner from Alexis Sánchez.
After such dire form throughout the past few weeks, it was definitely an encouraging sign for Newcastle fans to see a first-half performance such as this. A negative mood was felt at St. James’ Park in their loss to Leicester City, and owner Mike Ashley’s presence did not help matters. The Toon owner was seen yet again in the stands on Saturday, following a week that saw him offer up plans for the coming months to his players and coaches. Newcastle sat back late in the match, and it cost them dearly.
The week that was
Ashley took his club out to dinner earlier this week, reportedly treating those in attendance to pizza and pasta. He also informed the players that he would pay for a holiday if they are able to avoid relegation this season, as well as reinforcing his intentions to keep Benitez at Newcastle. The 58-year-old tactician’s contract on Tyneside ends at the conclusion of the current term.
Supporters were at the ready, with chants of “get out of our club” and “where’s the money gone” waiting for Ashley upon exiting the restaurant. There was plenty of evidence to assume that another dreadful weekend was on the horizon. Benitez had his squad playing with a sharp edge, only to see it all crumble late in the match. Any loss will hurt, but this particular one may sting a bit more for all involved.
Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez really needed a positive outing on Saturday against Manchester United. After a week involving Mike Ashley that seemed to be setting up another failure, the Magpies were unable to write the beginnings of a new chapter for the 2018-19 campaign. They will be looking for more consistency in their next fixture when they host Brighton on October 20.