What is going wrong at Newcastle United?

Newcastle United slumped to their fourth straight defeat and look a long way off the team that challenged for a place in the Champions League last season.

So, what has went wrong? For me, personally, after watching them a lot both last season and this year there isn’t much of a difference at all, especially going forward. Last year, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse didn’t click as a pairing and it is only in the spotlight now because the team aren’t picking up the points and anyone who points to this, has obviously not been watching the games from last year closely enough.

What has changed then? Defensively they look awful this year and last year Tim Krul kept a lot of clean sheets and this was a massive part of their success. All it required was one piece of magic from one of their main attacking players, whether that be Ba, Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa or Yohan Cabaye. Last season, if Newcastle kept a clean sheet I was very confident they would nick a goal but this year they can’t keep clean sheets so they need something extra.

Injuries have obviously hampered the team, in particular the two French players, Cabaye and Ben Arfa because without them there is a clear lack of creativity. Just look at the midfield that started against Stoke City, Vurnon Anita, Cheick Tiote, James Perch and Jonas Gutierrez, every one of them gives something to the team, in terms of workrate and commitment but they aren’t going to create many chances for the front two, who can’t seem to link up, so a lot of the long balls which, Mike Williamson loves to play is pointless and is resulting in the opposition getting the ball back and launching an attack.

So, what can manager Alan Pardew really do? He needed to be backed in the summer by Mike Ashley but unfortunately he wasn’t and with the extra games in Europe and the injuries that are adding up, he is fighting a losing battle. He wanted to bring in quite a few players but it just didn’t happen and he actually wanted a goal scoring centre back and one point which turned into nothing and maybe that is part of the reason why the team can’t score from set pieces. Which is another thing that has been awful, both defensively and offensively.

I think the team will sort itself out and anyone that thinks Pardew should be sacked really needs to understand that stability is the way forward. The only worry I can see at the moment is if Newcastle finish midtable, other clubs will be looking to take their better players and with no Europe next season, they will be a lot more likely to leave. He needs to bring in players in January just to convince the rest of the players to stay, but the potential is there and we all seen last season that at times they can be unbeatable and have the players to really hurt the opposition. Finally, I would just like to say fair play to Pardew for not blaming the injury list on the teams form but if he had brought in more players in the summer, where would Newcastle be now?

Player of the day- Steven Gerrard plus My hatred for ITV!

England have won Group D after beating Ukraine while France couldn’t get the win they needed as they lost against Sweden however they still qualified.

France decided to play a few of their fringe players with Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann M’Vila who have hardly kicked a ball this tournament getting a start and Laurent Blanc’s gamble did not pay off. For me the big mistake was leaving out Yohan Cabaye who had been in superb form so far and is someone who I consider to be undroppable at both club and international level. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson scored the goals and they sent their fans home happy. France will now face Spain in the quarter finals.

The England game wasn’t the most exciting and their fans will take confidence from the result however their performance still wasn’t great going forward even with the returning Wayne Rooney in the starting 11. The first half showed England struggle to break down teams that aren’t the best at defending and when they did take the lead early in the second half, it was largely down to a mistake from the Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. However, it is worth saying that the cross from Steven Gerrard was fantastic and Wayne Rooney had to be in the right position to header home. It wasn’t the most exciting game but England were very lucky when the ball seemed to cross the line before John Terry managed to clear. How the fifth official missed it I will never know and it just shows that they actually are pointless and do nothing. Also, it looked as though the ball hit John Terry’s hand later in the half but that also wasn’t given.

Man of the match- Steven Gerrard- It wasn’t the greatest performance from England but their captain showed his worth by supplying the cross for the goal and putting in a number of other threatening crosses. He linked up well with both Rooney and Danny Welbeck at times and that will be important against better teams. Plus, his partnership with Scott Parker is getting better and better by the game as they know where the other is on the pitch and if they should go forward or sit back and protect the back four. It is refreshing to see Gerrard playing well after all the years of seeing him struggle alongside Frank Lampard. He has easily been England’s stand out player this tournament already and he is finally showing his true ability at international level and is a fantastic example to everyone when he is on the pitch.

Gerrard is closing in on his 100th cap for England

Finally, I would just like to say I really hate coverage of the England games, especially on ITV as the commentators aren’t impartial at all and try to claim that England are the best thing in world football. They are not and they think every player is brilliant. They don’t even care that much about the opposition and will not even give them that much credit. They hardly talked about Ukraine when their shot crossed the line, instead they focused on how well John Terry did to get back into the right position but who cares about that, he didn’t stop the goal and if the fifth official was awake or we used goal line technology then it would have been a goal so why praise him? Then instead of saying that would have changed the match, they talked about the Germany game at the World Cup. Football doesn’t revolve around England and it is no wonder England fans are always naive and think they can win big tournaments. I support England but I hate the way ITV portrays the players and it really makes me hate watching the national team and that is without even mentioning Adrian Chiles.

Players of the day- Franck Ribery and Theo Walcott

Sweden are the second team to be knocked out of Euro2012 after their 3-2 defeat to England while France beat Ukraine.

The first game was suspended after the fourth minute because of terrible weather conditions and it eventually got under way almost an hour later. The first half saw both teams come close but neither could really take control of the game, although France had more of the possession they couldn’t quite carve the Ukrainian defence open. However, early in the second half the game was all but over after two goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye. Both goals were finished off brilliantly after some wonderful passing. Cabaye deserved his goal and once again was sublime in the centre of the midfield and along with Andrea Pirlo, has been the most consistent player in the tournament. Ukraine had a few half chances but couldn’t find a way past Hugo Lloris in the French goal.

Man of the match- Franck Ribery- The Bayern Munich winger was in and out of the game but whenever he had the ball he frightened the life out of the Ukraine defenders. His pace was crucial in the first goal and he looked the most likely all through the first half to open the scoring. France’s other flair players were slightly disappointing in my opinion with Samir Nasri never getting out of first gear and Menez being very wasteful at times. Ribery was the one that added some much needed creativity to the game and outshone the rest.

Ribery made his international debut in 2006

England managed to beat Sweden in a thrilling game with both teams pushing forward for the win. Andy Carroll gave them the lead with a good header from an accurate cross from Steven Gerrard and England seemed in control without every really posing a threat. The second half was very different as the Swedes knew that defeat would mean they were eliminated from the competition and when Glen Johnson couldn’t clear an Olof Mellberg shot, they looked confident and were forcing the issue a lot more and then Mellberg once again popped up from a free kick to score a header. This left the England fans with a feeling of oh no not again but Roy Hodgson made a positive substitution and brought on Theo Walcott who scored with one of his first touches. Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson should have done a lot better though. The winner was scored by Danny Welbeck who flicked in a Walcott cross with an inventive effort that not many other players would have been able to pull off or even try.

Man of the match- Theo Walcott- He may not have been on the pitch for that long but he changed the game and proved to be the difference between the sides. James Milner hadn’t been able to get much out of the fullback Martin Olsson but he looked awful against Walcott. His goal may not have been the best but at least he had a try and it lifted everyone. For the Welbeck goal he was vital as he picked up the ball and was very direct, driving at the defence and pulling the ball across for the Manchester United striker. He may not have been involved a lot but when he did have the ball he caused problems and maybe will get a chance to start in the next game.

Walcott now has four goal for England

Players of the day- Yohan Cabaye and Andriy Shevchenko

England kicked off their European Championship campaign against France and co-hosts Ukraine took on Sweden in Group D.

The England fans were not the most optimistic before the game but afterwards they should be quietly confident they can beat both Ukraine and Sweden to qualify for the knockout stages. France had more of the ball and looked the more threatening but on the counter attack Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck caused problems for the French defence. Joleon Lescott scored the opening goal from a fantastic Steven Gerrard free kick and this capped off an impressive first 30 minutes for the team. James Milner had went close after rounding the keeper but he could not finish but after the goal France took control. Samir Nasri grabbed an equaliser with a long range effort which Joe Hart arguably could have done better with. The second half was all France and Karim Benzema had two efforts from distance that needed saving.

Man of the match- Yohan Cabaye- The Newcastle midfielder ran the show and has added another couple of million pound to his price tag after such an impressive performance. He may not have stood out to some people as he didn’t take players on or get into really threatening positions but he kept the ball for his team and stopped countless counter attacks. He completed 43 of his 46 passes which is impressive by anyone’s standards and he certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Spain side with his intelligent passes. He was unlucky not to score when his volley was just deflected wide but he was also lucky to escape without a booking as he did commit quite a few fouls.

Cabaye scored four goals in his first season in England

Co-hosts Ukraine are now top of the group after beating Sweden 2-1 and looking very impressive, they kept the ball brilliantly and very imaginative in some of their play. Wingers Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko were impressive and they tried to take on their fullbacks and put crosses into the box. But it was Sweden who opened the scoring with a goal from the inconsistent Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He finished off a move he started, and it looked as though they would go on and win the game comfortably but Ukraine had other ideas. Two headers from Andriy Shevchenko changed the game around and it left Sweden desperate to find equaliser towards the end with Olof Mellberg and Johan Elmander missing very good chances.

Man of the match- Andriy Shevchenko- He was already a national hero and now he will be considered a god in his homeland. The striker showed his fantastic ability and his movement was second to none in the tournament so far, the way he got away from Mellberg for his first was wonderful and getting in at the near post was genius from the former Chelsea man. His best days may be past him but he showed that if he is given a chance he will put it away, so France and England need to make sure they don’t give him a sniff.

Shevchenko has scored 48 goals for Ukraine

Who will Nigel Reo-Coker sign for?

Nigel Reo-Coker is looking for a new club this summer after Bolton Wanderers were relegated from the Premier League.

Reo-Coker was captain at both Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United

Bolton were unable to stay up on the last day and now they must worry that a lot of their star players including Reo-Coker will leave the club either on a free or for a small fee. Midfielder Reo-Coker had a good season in my opinion and was one of their better, more consistent players throughout the season and he will be difficult to replace. He scored three times in the league for the club from his 37 games. It was not his goal scoring that was impressive though, it was the way he got about the pitch and made a lot of challenges and caused the opposition to give the ball away, the former Aston Villa man is also a player that keeps it very simple which is vital in any team and also this allowed his midfield partner Mark Davies to get forward more.

It was also not surprising to see him captain the side on a few occasions while Kevin Davies was injured or on the bench as had previously captained West Ham at a very young age and is a good leader and whenever he gets on the pitch you can see how committed he is and how much he wants to succeed.

So who could he sign for and make an impact for them? In my opinion he is too good for the Championship and possibly even a team that is going to battle against relegation. However, I do not think he is quite good enough for one of the very top teams so he will have to go to a club that is in mid table or challenging for the European places. The first team I think should be interested in him is Newcastle United as they are in need of squad depth this year, with them competing in Europe already and the confirmation of Danny Guthrie leaving means they will need a new central midfielder. We all know that Mike Ashley tries to find the cheapest option as possible but I wouldn’t just see this signing as that. As long as Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye don’t leave then I think Reo-Coker would be a very good signing and when the games start to catch up on these two, I’m sure he would not let anyone down and the fans would take to him, as he always puts in 100% effort.

However, I do think rivals Sunderland will be after his signing as at times they have looked a little inconsistent in the middle of the park with Craig Gardner only showing his talent every now and again and Jack Colback only being a young player, he will not be able to perform for a full season. Obviously, Lee Cattermole is first choice but he struggled at times with his discipline and will pick up bookings so in my opinion they do need a few more options in that area.

Finally, West Brom should take a look at him as it looks more and more likely that they are going to lose Youssuf Mulumbu this summer so will need someone in their midfield that is strong in the tackle and can also grab the odd goal. They are quite similar players so I don’t think they would be losing anything in their team if they signed Reo-Coker as a replacement.

The ex England under 21 player is a free transfer so I expect a lot of interest in him so clubs should try and snap him up as quickly as possible. He has been linked with moves abroad but I think he would prefer to stay in England as his style of football fits the Premier League the best. He could be one of the best signings this summer if he performs to the best of his abilities at his new club.

Newcastle United sign Romain Amalfitano

Newcastle United have signed French midfielder Romain Amalfitano as they look to add depth to their squad for next season.

Amalfitano scored six goals for Reims in the league

The club are obviously wanting to get their squad together for next year as they will be competing in Europe and will be hoping to progress quite far in the Europa League while still being competitive in the Premier League. The signing of a midfielder suggests that some players are going to be leaving later in the summer. Danny Guthrie’s contract is up and although I think he should get a new contract, the player himself probably wants to leave to get more first team chances as he is behind Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye in the pecking order. With this news, he will most certainly be going and I’m sure he would have been a very good squad player which another team can take advantage of and he is currently being linked with Sunderland. The signing also adds to the speculation that Dan Gosling could be leaving as he has been continually frustrated that he hasn’t played that often and been restricted to substitute appearances. Since signing in 2010 he has only played 13 league games due to the fact he has had a lot of injuries and has been overlooked by Pardew many times when he has decided to play James Perch in the middle of midfield.

So onto Amalfitano himself, he is yet another player that has signed for the club that nobody knows and will be hoping to emulate the performances of players like Cabaye and Tiote. He is regarded as player with a lot of potential and now that he is 22 he also has enough experience to be able to cope with the move to England. The attacking midfielder will join the club on the 1st July after his contract expires at Reims. He has previously played for Evian and looked as though he was going to make an impact in the French leagues with some impressive early performances. He managed to score three goals 22 appearances.

Looking at his abilities and he is definitely a confident player that can change a game as he has a very good first touch and can see a pass. He also has a good strike on him and likes to try long ranged efforts. But his best attribute is his ability to break into the box at the right time and finish off chances, he is a similar player to Frank Lampard and if he can adapt to the Premier League quickly he could become a vital part of the team and could be crucial in coming off the bench and grabbing an equaliser or a winner.

This season he helped Reims get promoted back to the top French division and he will obviously join Newcastle with a lot of confidence and will be helped by Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba who will all help him settle in. Hopefully this will be a signing to add to squad depth rather than replace one of their starters because their current first 11 have been linked away from the club.

 

Who will be the Premier League manager of the year?

As the season is nearing its conclusion it is going to be a very exciting time in the Premier League with the title yet to be decided, European places still up for grabs and the battle to avoid the drop going down to the wire. But now is also is the time of the year when awards are handed out and there are many contenders for manager of the year.

Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson both deserve a shout as they have done very well and are obviously the front runners for the England job because of the job they have done at club level but in my opinion Tottenham have done exactly as expected, challenged for the title for a while and then inevitably fell away and are now looking to finish in the Champions League places. West Brom have done slightly better than I expected but mid table is about right for them, however, they were pushing for a top 10 place before their recent slump.

So here are my five nominations for manager of the year.

Brendan Rodgers – Swansea City

Swansea have performed better than anyone could have imagined with an impressive home record and an improving away record, they have took to the Premier League like a duck to water. It is not only the results Swansea have picked up, it is the way they have done it and Rodgers deserves a lot of praise for this as he gives his players the confidence to go out and play. The play arguably the best passing game in the country and are never fazed by anyone and will continue to play their way no matter the opposition and Rodgers deserves credit for this. He has done it with a shoestring budget also and he is now linked with a move away from the Liberty Stadium because of how impressive he has been

Alan Pardew – Newcastle United

Newcastle yet again are another team that has performed a lot better than expected. After losing key players in the summer, they were expected to struggle but the players Pardew has brought in have been fantastic signings. Demba Ba, scored goals for fun in the first half of the Premier League and even though the goals have dried up, he is still playing very well. Yohan Cabaye, has dictated a lot of games from the centre of midfield and, although he would have liked more goals, has formed a very good partnership with Cheick Tiote. Finally Papiss Cisse has set the Premier League on fire with seven goals in his first seven games. Pardew hasn’t been given a lot of money but has spent it wisely and now Newcastle are back where they belong challenging for a place in Europe.

Paul Lambert- Norwich City

Yet another overachiever in Paul Lambert, Norwich have shown everyone why they deserve their place in the Premier League. Lambert went for determined players instead of experienced players for this campaign and it has worked out magnificently with Grant Holt being the second highest English scorer in the league even though it is his first season. The players clearly love Lambert for giving them this chance and they are repaying him for that. Maybe an outside shot for manager of the year but definitely deserves a lot of praise for the job he has done.

Sir Alex Ferguson – Manchester United

Fergie needs no introduction and it seems like he has masterminded yet another league title. Their rivals may have splashed the cash but this still has not been enough for them to wrestle the title away from the Red Devils, however, this could all change if United slip up in the coming weeks. Do we really see this happening though? This may be one of Ferguson’s greatest title wins because of the pressure they were under from the noisy neighbours but there is no sign that he is about to slow down and will be wanting even more success in the years to come.

David Moyes – Everton

Still the most underrated manager in the Premier League in my opinion because year after year he gets Everton into the top half of the table even when he loses his best players and is not given a lot of money to replace them. With his team currently in the semi final of the FA Cup and above Liverpool in the table, it has been yet another fantastic year. If he can add a trophy then he will surely go down as one of Everton’s greatest managers ever. Also, I think he is the man to replace Alex Ferguson at Manchester United so the Everton fans will need to enjoy this success while it lasts because I do not believe anyone else can do as good a job as he has done in the past 10 years.

Here are the five managers that I think deserve to be manager of the year and they are difficult to separate but I think Brendan Rogers should win the award and English teams should try and replicate what Swansea have done. So, who do you think should be manager of the year?

Newcastle’s surprise player of the season

Danny Guthrie is the most underrated player in the Premier League as he keeps completely controlling games with his great range of passing. He likes to play the game simply most of the time, just playing the way he is facing, so if he is facing towards his own goal he will just drop it off to the centre back and make another move to pick up the ball. On the other hand though, he sometimes delivers perfect 50 to 60 yard cross field passes which if they were done by Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard would be praised no end by commentators and pundits alike.

He just gets about his job effectively and another thing I like about him is that he is clearly a very quiet man which is very rare especially for a football player. He just lets his football do the talking and yet again against Aston Villa he played fantastically and was a candidate for man of the match. Every time he put the ball in the box it caused confusion in the Villa defence and led to many chances, the best of them falling to Papiss Demba Cisse who should have scored with a header on his debut. In fairness to the striker, he did score a wonder goal which won the game so he shouldn’t be criticised too much.

The former Liverpool youngster has been very impressive this season even though he can’t have expected much playing time with Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote in such great form at the start of the season. But everyone knows it is a long season and the whole squad is needed so when he came in to cover for injuries, the Toon fans must not have been expecting too much. He proved them wrong and possibly even Alan Pardew, as he had not been offered a contract extension even though his was up at the end of the season. He proved in the games especially against Stoke, Everton and Qpr that he is more than just an average squad player.

Yes at times he does seem to lack fitness and he does make rash challenges but when he has the ball his pass completion must be up there with some of the best in the country, yet he will never be mentioned as a possible England player. Although this could be because Fabio Capello does not come to watch any Newcastle games and therefore he will never get looked at.

To fully appreciate the way Guthrie plays football, you have to watch a full 90 minutes because he will not exactly stand out in the highlights because he won’t get many goals and he does a lot of the boring stuff leaving the more adventurous and skilful side of the game to other players. But he is vital at the minute to Newcastle and on current form I cannot see both Cabaye and Tiote starting ahead of him but yet again those two have been linked to moves away to Chelsea and Manchester United.

Well done to the player himself because he has never really complained about being on the bench and is now repaying the manager and the fans with his performances. He is most certainly having a better season than a certain Joey Barton.

Newcastle United vs Manchester United- Head to head battles

This result could prove to be very pivotal in both teams seasons with Newcastle only winning one of their last eight after starting the season with an 11 game unbeaten run and Manchester United now losing two games in a row and conceding six goals in the process. This isn’t very Manchester United like and the performance against Newcastle further highlighted the need for strengthening at Old Trafford with the Toon Army having firstly more drive and determination but also more skill and ability.

Demba Ba was a constant threat and should have had a penalty when he was blatantly took out by Rio Ferdinand in the box but this probably evens out what happened earlier in the season when Newcastle won a penalty against Ferdinand which was clearly a mistake by the officials.

The first two Newcastle goals were through a little bit of individual quality and they had clearly watched Manchester United’s previous game against Blackburn where they also looked suspect at the back. Newcastle deserved their emphatic victory as they had more shots and even under slight pressure they held strong and only really looked like conceding once or twice.

As a team, Newcastle won the battle obviously as the stats suggest but what about the individuals.

Krul vs Lindegaard

Krul didn’t have much to do in the game but has proved time and time again this season that he is valuable to the squad and that goalkeeper’s are so important in this league and can win you points almost singlehandedly in some games. He dealt with everything that was thrown at him quite comfortably apart from one Nani shot in the first half which he didn’t take cleanly but recovered quickly enough to get control of the loose ball.

Lindegaard must be quite a confused man this morning, conceding three goals, yet he also didn’t have much to do. The first two goals were unstoppable and even if him and De Gea had been in goal it still would have been 2-0 Newcastle. He does not look convincing though and when put under pressure he could struggle with Williamson putting a header over the bar after he came for a corner and got nowhere near it. Also, a worrying part of his game is his communication with his defenders which was shown when Phil Jones put the ball into the back of his own net.

Winner= Tim Krul

Simpson vs Valencia

This may have been Danny Simpson’s best performance in the Premier League for the Magpies as he attacked very well and attempted to support Ryan Taylor whenever he could, although his final ball at times was poor. But it was his defending that was most impressive especially after his shocking performance against Liverpool, he was strong in the tackle and his positioning for the most part was spot on. His goal line clearance was celebrated like a goal by the team and so it should have been because if the team from Manchester had scored then we would probably have been looking at a different result.

Got to feel sorry for Valencia, he isn’t a right back but always puts in a good shift wherever he is told to play and was no different in this game. He always looked to get forward and was probably their most attacking threat. Like Simpson his final ball let him down but his work rate, getting up and down the wing time and time again was commendable.

Winner= Danny Simpson

Santon vs Evra

Davide Santon was signed with quite a big reputation from Inter Milan but couldn’t seem to shift Ryan Taylor a makeshift left back from the team and a lot of fans were wondering is this guy the real deal or just another flop we have signed from Europe? Based on his performance last night you can see why he was highly rated by every Inter manager apart from Mourinho. But like most fullbacks these days he is better at going forward than defending producing jinking runs and alleviating the pressure on him and his fellow defenders with his ability to keep the ball. Performed well against Nani who is quite a tricky customer when he is on his game.

Patrice Evra, this season for me does not look as solid as he has done in previous seasons and this was shown again at times as he got beaten for pace by Ryan Taylor and allowed him space to cross time and time again which the central defenders won’t have been too happy with. He was given the captains armband but I don’t understand why, he doesn’t not seem influential or inspiring as captain at all. Going forward he didn’t really have a chance and this is the best part of his game. Poor performance but will surely before the end of the season prove he is one of the best left backs in Europe.

Winner= Davide Santon

Williamson vs Jones

Just back from injury, Williamson adds much needed height and power to the Newcastle defence especially after the injury to Steven Taylor which ruled him out for the rest of the season. He sometimes looks suspect when dealing with a bit of pace and movement but he does win a lot of aerial battles and can tackle when he gets the chance. Also, he gives the team another attacking threat from set pieces, missing a simple chance in the process but he will be happier with the way he and his fellow defenders snuffed out the threat from the opposition.

Phil Jones there is no doubt about it, is one of the most promising young players currently in England with his ability to play in several different positions. But he played centre back against Newcastle and was given a lesson from Shola Ameobi and Demba Ba. He could not deal with their power and pace. Losing the first header in the first goal and giving away the free kick for the second. For the third, he probably wished the ground would open up and swallow him after a breakdown in communication with his keeper, he went to header the ball but misjudged it and it his knee and went into the back of the net. A night to forget for the young lad but he will prove to be a very good signing for United.

Winner= Williamson

Coloccini vs Ferdinand

‘Captain Colo’ has been in fantastic form this season and never looks flustered under pressure producing moments of magic the most attacking players would be proud of. He didn’t get much of a chance to maraud forward as much as he likes to from centre back but it is his defending that has improved dramatically since he first arrived in Newcastle. He is quick along the ground and seems to see danger very quickly to get across and clear for his team. It’s not just luck that he seems to be in the right place at the right time over and over again. His curly locks in his first season were noticeable for his mistakes but now everyone not only notices his flamboyant hair but his abilities as a top class central defender.

Rio Ferdinand was very lucky not to give away a penalty after a tangle of legs in the box and this just typified his night. He didn’t seem to be at the races almost gifting a goal to Demba Ba after a poor first touch, he could not deal with the strikers just like his much younger and less experienced partner Phil Jones couldn’t. But surely we expect better from the man that is hoping to lead England’s defence at Euro 2012 (if John Terry is banned for racism then surely he can’t play for England? But this is an issue for another time). He just didn’t look his normal composed self at the back and maybe it’s because he is getting older or maybe it’s because he doesn’t have any confidence in his goalkeeper and players either side of him. Not all his fault but should have been tighter on Ba for the first goal.

Winner= Coloccini

Taylor vs Nani

Ryan Taylor is fast becoming a cult hero for the Toon Army with his impressive displays at left back and obviously his winning goal in the Tyne Wear Derby against Sunderland. But he played on the right of midfield and he was energetic and full of life always asking for the ball and most of the time keeping good possession. He provided Simpson with a lot of support and was a very hardworking performance from the Scouser. His set pieces were always a threat as usual causing panic in the Manchester United defence from his corners.

Nani didn’t have his best game in a United shirt but it was down the right hand side that they caused the most threat but still he couldn’t produce a moment of magic to unlock the Newcastle defence. A couple of good runs and little flashes of skill were just not good enough but at least he did try a few different things. He seemed to stay on the wing for much of the game and maybe should have drifted inside more but if he did that and didn’t cause problems he would have been slated as well and told to stay out wide. So maybe it just wasn’t his night and he was fighting a losing battle

Winner= Ryan Taylor

Gutierrez vs Park

As always the Argentinean did his job and worked hard winning free kicks for his team in tight positions and covering every blade of grass down the left hand side. Sometimes his final ball lets him down and going forward he can be frustrating but that is all forgiven when the fans see him working hard and at times running the length of the pitch to get back just so he can give extra support to his teammates which not every winger is willing to do. He is nothing more than an average player but he is worth his weight in gold and Newcastle are very glad they have him.

Park is similar to Gutierrez always works hard for the cause but he doesn’t seem to get as much credit probably because being a Manchester United player you need more than just hard work but Park doesn’t seem to offer anymore. Possibly only still at the club because of the financial side of the game as he will bring even more money in from Asia for the champions. Maybe this is a little harsh on Park but from his performance he does not look good enough for a team wanting to win the league.

Winner= Jonas Gutierrez

Cabaye vs Giggs

A fantastic free kick capped off a fine performance, was an absolute steal for Newcastle when they signed him from Lille. His passing has been a vital part to the way Newcastle play with his ability to accurately send cross field to passes to the winger on the opposite side. Against Man United he played slightly differently to normal as he looked to break forward a lot more and get into the box, having a few shots which he is capable of hitting with both power and accuracy with either foot. But his free kick will be remembered by the Geordie faithful for quite a long time. He could be in the running for signing of the season but unfortunately for him and fantastically for the Newcastle scouting team who deserve huge amounts of credit he probably hasn’t even been Newcastle’s best signing. He has a great partnership with Tiote but even earlier in the season when Tiote was injured he formed a good partnership with Danny Guthrie so it just proves his quality and his ability to adapt his game to whoever is playing alongside him.

The Welshman for the first time actually looked his age against Newcastle, dominated by the opposition and unable to produce any magic we still expect from him. Playing in the centre of midfield he looked a shadow of his former self and this may be down to the performance of the Newcastle centre midfield. Maybe it’s time to call it a day although against a less pressurising team he could still do a job for United but it may be better just to play him in the home games. In my opinion Paul Scholes could have had more of an impact on a game like this if he was still playing.

Winner= Yohan Cabaye

Tiote vs Carrick

Cheick Tiote will be a massive miss now he has going to the Africa Cup of Nations and it’s not just coincidence that when he got injured Newcastle went on a winless run. Last season he was constantly criticised for the amount of bookings he picked up and yes he did get booked yesterday but it was one that goes in the category of had to be done for the team. Which is what Tiote is all about, everything he does benefits the team and is another fantastic acquisition for Newcastle. He is so strong and his ability on the ball is definitely underrated. He gets about the pitch and does all of the dirty work closing down the opposition and making tackles so the more attacking players can play their natural game. It’s not surprising he is linked with the biggest teams in Europe and if Newcastle are ambitious and want to progress they have to keep hold of their holding midfielder

Another holding midfielder but plays very differently to Tiote, he is more of a passer than a tackler although he doesn’t mind getting stuck in at all. The game seemed to pass him by and as a Geordie probably wanted to perform at St James’ Park but this wasn’t great and is probably glad Fabio Capello does not come up to the North East to watch football or it could have reduced his chances of going to the Euros. Although he is a player who’s work often goes unnoticed, in this game he was invisible and lacked the needed quality to break down this resilient Newcastle team and is further proof that Fergie needs to invest in a central midfielder. Maybe players like Cabaye and Tiote would be good signings.

Winner= Cheick Tiote

Ameobi vs Berbatov

Shola Ameobi affectionately known as the ‘Sunderland Slayer’ by the Geordies had arguably one of his best games in a Newcastle shirt, he caused a threat every time the ball was in the air and won a large majority of flick ons to his teammates. He is often criticised because of his lack of ability but he made up for it with his determination and movement. He won the flick for the first goal and then dragged the defender out of position so Demba Ba could attack the space and win the free kick that led to the second. Shola along with the other strikers will have to step up to the plate in the next month with Ba away on international duty but this performance should give the fans some hope.

Simply anonymous. Hit the post with a deflected header in the first half and was then substituted in the second. That’s about it for his performance which is quite disappointing seen as though he was on a good run of form. Just couldn’t get into the game and didn’t look interested although with his languid style even at the best of times he doesn’t look that interested

Winner= Shola Ameobi

Ba vs Rooney

What more is there to say about this man? He has such fantastic ability on the ball but it was his hard work that impressed me most , he chased down everything and led from the front in not giving any Manchester United player time to settle on the ball. But, his goal showed how good of a player he is, what fantastic technique to hit the ball first time like that and it finding the corner of the net. He is a constant menace and seems to be scoring goals for fun and for a free transfer surely must be the signing of the season. Fans wondered where the goals were going to come from and how would they replace Andy Carroll. Demba Ba has stepped up and surpassed even the most optimistic fans expectations. It’s not surprising fans and pundits are running out of superlatives to describe his season. It’s just unfortunate not only for the Newcastle fans but also the Premier League that his season is being disrupted by the African Cup of Nations.

Wayne Rooney was not at the races at all, and it was clear to see when he was played through and his touch let him down, it was a chance he would usually gobble up, especially against Newcastle, who he has such a good record against. Substituted for Anderson and this basically emphasises how bad of a night it was for the England striker, losing by two goals and taking off a player that is usually feared by every defender in the country. With him not playing against Blackburn it seemed to be written in the script that he would be influential in the game but this was ripped up and never happened.

Winner= Demba Ba

Newcastle won the battles all over the pitch and although ability wise they may not have the same quality as their Manchester counterparts but they made up for it in deteremination and desire to win the game. Huge praise has to go to Alan Pardew because not many managers over the years have got one over Sir Alex Ferguson tactically. He called it perfectly, and got everything spot on, he wasn’t wanted at Newcastle to begin with but now the fans see him as one of them, if he can secure European football he will probably be considered their best manager since the great Sir Bobby Robson