Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 4: Stuart Rayner's match analysis

Yet another gutless end-of-season performance has cranked up the pressure on Alan Pardew - and with good reason

Paul Thomas/Getty Images Massadio Haidara in action against Ashley Young of Manchester United
Massadio Haidara in action against Ashley Young of Manchester United

Yet another gutless end-of-season performance has cranked up the pressure on Alan Pardew – and with good reason.

Yet Newcastle United’s manager is far from alone in not doing enough right now.

To scapegoat Pardew for a shameful 4-0 defeat to Manchester United is to blind yourself to the collective responsibility shirked at St James’ Park.

Losing to the Red Devils – even this pale imitation – is not in itself cause for shame. Even heavy losses can sometimes be explained away against a side better than yours.

What hurt the most, what prompted the chorus of full-time boos, was not the defeat – but the manner of it.

If Anders Lindegaard had not made the first of three brilliant saves from Papiss Cisse, who knows how this game might have turned out.

Yet once the visitors led through Juan Mata’s curling 38th-minute free-kick, all motivation ebbed from the men in black and white.

While the flowing football which produced the next three goals was glorious for the neutral to watch, it was cringeworthy for those with Newcastle at heart. All three were made embarrassingly easy by a lack of pressure on the ball and an unwillingness to track runners. They are the most basic of basics, independent of ability, tactics and luck.

Pardew had spoken in the week about his team’s lack of desire at Southampton the previous weekend. To be guilty of the same crime twice in succession was shocking.

To do so in front of a sold-out St James’s was heinous in the extreme.

You could blame Pardew or John Carver, the man left to run the show from the touchline by his manager’s stupidity, for the complete absence of motivation once the team trailed.

You can justifiably point a finger at owner Mike Ashley for his very blatant lack of ambition.

You could even blame the subdued supporters for not geeing their side up, though that would be looking at the problem back to front.

Yet there are tens of thousands of reasons a week why those who wear the famous black-and-white shirt ought to be able to motivate themselves. Pitifully few did on Saturday.

As the man in charge, Pardew has to shoulder some responsibility and he could have no complaints if Ashley was to pull the plug – not after 15 mainly woeful Premier League games in which his team have failed to find the net 11 times.

However, the individual players have to be most answerable for their lacklustre displays. Like Ashley, too many seem happy to hide behind the failings of his full-time human shield.

They are sleepwalking into the kind of malaise which has a habit of drifting over into new seasons. That Pardew remains in a job after what he did to David Meyler suggests Ashley may be unwilling to address it, so perhaps it is time the players did – rather than waiting for the injured Loic Remy to come to their rescue.

If you want to know how easy this victory was for a Manchester United side depleted by injuries yet still able to rest players, consider the hardest slap delivered to Newcastle’s face.

Sixty-nine minutes into the game, Marouane Fellaini, one of two midfielders, complained of dizziness and was substituted.

David Moyes had the option of bringing on Tom Cleverley or pushing Phil Jones further forward with the introduction of Nemanja Vidic. Instead he threw on Nani to leave his side with a back four, Darren Fletcher, and five forwards.

That sort of thinking might have been commonplace the last time Newcastle beat the Red Devils home and away – in 1930-31 – but nowadays it is rarely seen even in the desperation of the dying minutes of a game.

For a club more worried about Wednesday’s European Cup quarter-final second leg in Munich – so much so Danny Welbeck was left in the stands, Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand at home – it really was that comfortable.

Yet when the score was 0-0, it was anything but. The Magpies were the better side. With Davide Santon firing crosses in from the right, Newcastle had the only real chances.

Dan Gosling, still acclimatising to starting a Premier League match for only the second time in his four-year Tyneside career, headed a good one wide from Santon’s second-minute centre. Cheick Tiote volleyed a bouncing ball over and Cisse’s shots after beating Jones in the air, and from an overhead kick, were weak.

Yet his header from another Santon delivery was not and Lindegaard did well to tip it over.

Thanks partly to Mike Williamson’s dominance in the air and bravery in the block, the Red Devils had done nothing to test Rob Elliot. When Gosling tackled Fletcher from the wrong side, the goalkeeper could only really watch Mata’s marvellous free-kick dip over his wall.

A minute before half-time he saw Javier Hernandez’s shot – generously allowed when Kevin Friend overlooked a high boot – strike a post. Shortly after it calamitous defending by Fabricio Coloccini – first to needlessly concede possession, then to be put on the seat of his pants by Mata – allowed the Spaniard to effectively end the game with 40 minutes left.

The least said about the rest of the non-contest the better, except Cisse at least made Lindegaard earn his wages. The eternity the Senegalese took to consider his options from Massadio Haidara’s cross gave the Danish goalkeeper an opportunity to complete a hat-trick of impressive saves and highlighted the striker is a shadow of the man who once fired the club into Europe.

He was at least trying. That it is worthy of comment is more damning than any scoreline.

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David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer