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22nd Aug 2015

5 things we learned from Manchester United’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle

Kevin Beirne

Manchester United’s 100% start to the season came to an abrupt end as they were held to a goalless draw at home to Newcastle.

The point temporarily sent Louis van Gaal’s side top of the Premier League, but there are plenty of improvements to be made. Paul Scholes’ reaction said it all.

1. Man United need defensive reinforcements

After missing out on Nicolas Otamendi and Sergio Ramos, it is clear that United are in dire need of a convincing presence at centre-back. While they have yet to concede a goal in the Premier League this season, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Daley Blind is a fine footballer, but he is not a commanding centre-half. He was guilty of letting Newcastle striker Alexander Mitrovic slip away from him several times in the first half and will surely struggle against tougher opposition.

Meanwhile, despite improved displays of late, Chris Smalling has failed to prove that he possesses the leadership to organise the back four. Someone with experience at the highest level is required.


2. Wayne Rooney needs more competition

Once again, Wayne Rooney failed to open his account for the season with another lacklustre display. His individual highlight came after just three minutes when he had a goal disallowed for off-side, which says all you need to know about his recent form.

Javier Hernandez failed to make an impression upon replacing Adnan Januzaj – wasting United’s best chance when he fired straight at Tim Krul – and Van Gaal should be on the phone to every agent in Europe looking for more attacking options over the next 10 days.

3. The midfield combination needs work

Bastian Schweinsteiger was underwhelming in his first start and has yet to ease fears that he is past his best.

Van Gaal has seemingly ignored all other areas of the pitch in favour of strengthening his midfield, but a plethora of options has left him facing some tough decisions.

One notable absentee during United’s ‘sterile domination’ was Ander Herrera, who possesses the drive and invention to inject some much-needed purpose into the team’s play. His chance to prove himself should come soon.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League

4. Marouane Fellaini’s presence is needed

It may have been unthinkable a year ago, but Marouane Fellaini is now an important part of United’s plans.

With Newcastle holding out for a precious point, the Belgian’s physical presence could have made the difference as the hosts repeatedly pumped the ball into the box in search of a breakthrough.

Fellaini will be available for next Sunday’s trip to Swansea having served a three-match ban following his red card against Hull on the final day of last season – and Van Gaal is almost certain to use him.

5. Newcastle still searching for first win

Steve McClaren will be happy to leave with a point on his return to Old Trafford. Newcastle’s defensive performance has given them something strong to build on in the coming season, but the state of the Magpies’ midfield will definitely worry the manager.

Newcastle barely had a meaningful touch of the ball in the early stages as their midfield was totally overrun. More imagination is needed in the middle of the pitch if they are to test teams on their travels instead of merely playing for a draw.