Aleksandar Mitrovic isn’t to blame for gamble backfiring

Mitrovic in action against Blackburn
Mitrovic in action against Blackburn

Well that was a shock to say the least.

Blackburn Rovers turned up with a game plan and executed it perfectly as we painfully watched missed chances as United came so close to making history.

Rafa was bold before the game, making six unforced changes to the starting XI including three replacements within the back four. It was surely a decision made with one eye firmly directed towards the cup game against Premier League strugglers Hull City.

With the power of hindsight – dare I say it, maybe Benitez got this one wrong, or was it simply a case of gambling a league result in order of being able to field a full strength team tonight?

Of course all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately it happened so close to a club record breaking winning streak held by Kevin Keegan’s 1992/93 team.

The result was unexpected but most frustrating of all was the missed opportunity to impress by many of those on the pitch. Chancel Mbemba, Issac Hayden, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Christian Atsu all failed to impress in the slightest.

This was their chance to show the manager and coaches that the team could succeed with them involved but sadly they failed to take it.

Many fans seem to be solely blaming the man up top for this defeat but I find that very hard to take – lumping balls from the back towards your target man is something that we’ve avoided all season. I had to scan the defence at one point to make sure that Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson hadn’t returned to St James’s Park in some sort of devastating nightmare.

Of course Mitrovic was poor, as was every other player bar Karl Darlow, but it seems far too easy to blame the Serbian right now, and he seems destined to be added to the scapegoat list, along with Paul Dummett, when things don’t go to plan.

Whichever way you look at this game it’s very hard to blame any individual – regular starters or fringe players – especially when a team underperforms as greatly as United did on Saturday afternoon.

Almost every player would struggle in this situation – even Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey seemed anonymous throughout and they’ve clearly been two key players this season.

Now let’s focus on the trip to KCOM Stadium. And let’s hope the cup dream stays alive.

Kris Wallace runs Gallowgate Shot, a South Tyneside-based Newcastle fan blog