Richard Mennear’s match analysis: Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 0

Manchester United's Chris Smalling (centre) sees a late header rebound off the Newcastle United post.
Manchester United's Chris Smalling (centre) sees a late header rebound off the Newcastle United post.

Committed, competitive, resolute.

Newcastle United gave everything at Old Trafford and deservedly came away with a point.

But some Toon supporters – including manager Steve McClaren – were disappointed they didn’t snatch all three after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s thumping header rattled the crossbar.

And new signing Florian Thauvin almost scored a late winner, but his boot just couldn’t quite stretch far enough.

The home of Manchester United is known as the Theatre of Dreams, but McClaren will have been having nightmares beforehand.

After the Swansea City thrashing, could his side cope with Man United’s potent attacking threat?

Would his makeshift defence – with new centre back Chancel Mbemba pushed to right-back to cover for the suspended Daryl Janmaat – cope?

Could Newcastle finally put an end to a seven-game losing streak in the Premier League away from home?

Well, McClaren’s side came up trumps on all three and in many ways, it was almost the perfect away performance.

Soak up the early pressure – which was intense – and then look to get a foothold and snatch something on the break.

It was a remarkable turnaround from the performance at the Liberty Stadium.

There, Newcastle were all over the shop defensively. They couldn’t cope and looked disorganised and rash in their decision making.

Fast forward a week and the coaching staff’s hard work had clearly paid off.

Captain Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor were immense – making tackles, throwing their bodies in the way, winning their headers.

Either side of them Mbemba coped well, while Massadio Haidara played his part, while Tim Krul was outstanding.

Cool, calm, collected. Krul commanded his box and made some important saves – including a world class stop to deny Javier Hernández.

The major concern prior to kick-off was that Newcastle are still light defensively.

McClaren was adamant his squad was big enough and while he didn’t expect any further signings, he has been around long enough to never say never.

This defensive display was of the highest order but they still need to bolster that area of the squad.

For now though, McClaren can reflect on a job well done at Old Trafford, his side’s display a strong platform to build on.

Consistency is the key in the top flight though. Newcastle cannot produce erratic defensive displays one week and then be outstanding the next.

They have set their own benchmark now.

McClaren’s philosophy is for his side to play from the back, to break forward quickly and in numbers. They couldn’t do that for the opening 20 minutes.

The hosts had them camped in their own half, with wave after wave of red shirts attacking Krul’s goal.

In order to come away from Old Trafford with anything you usually need a little bit of luck along the way.

And they got it four minutes in when Rooney – who hasn’t scored in four-and-a-half months for Man United – had a goal disallowed for offside.

Adnan Januzaj played him in with a defence-splitting pass, but assistant referee Lee Betts ruled him offside. Replays showed he was level.

A huge let off for McClaren’s men – who were just about managing to contain a pressing and probing United side.

Krul’s hands were the warmest inside the stadium, with Rooney, Memphis and Juan Mata all testing his handling.

Mata almost opened the scoring after 15 minutes. His low shot was palmed away by a diving Krul for another corner.

It was backs to the wall stuff – with Vurnon Anita and Jack Colback not doing enough to protect the defence from the onslaught.

Newcastle weathered the storm and slowly edged their way back into the game.

And they almost took the lead through Mitrovic’s stunning header from a Mbemba cross that rattled the crossbar, with Sergio Romero well beaten.

The Serbian striker – in from the start in place of Papiss Cisse – was excellent all game, leading the line well and showing strength and a strong work ethic.

He also kept his cool too, a welcome relief all round.

The breathless pace didn’t relent after the break, with Louis van Gaal turning to Michael Carrick to replace a disappointing Bastian Schweinsteiger.

It gave Man United a fresh impetus, with Carrick more eager to play the ball forward quickly to sub Hernandez.

Newcastle – thanks to some no-nonsense defending from Taylor and Coloccini – continued to hold firm.

The home fans started to chant ‘attack, attack, attack, attack, attack’ as they grew increasingly frustrated with their side’s lack of penetration.

Music to McClaren’s ears, as he introduced new £13million signing Thauvin from the bench.

Rooney had an effort blocked, Mata blasted high into the Stretford End, while Krul produced the save of the match with his legs to deny Hernandez.

A mixture of the post and Anita’s leg then cleared Chris Smalling’s header before Newcastle broke at pace.

Cisse played the ball across the face of goal but French forward Thauvin – reminiscent of Gazza at Euro 1996 – couldn’t stretch far enough.

Somehow, the game ended goalless.

This though, was a much-improved and promising performance from McClaren’s men.