Rob Elliot explains the thinking behind Newcastle’s 4-4-2 formation

Manchester United's Chris Smalling (centre) scores his side's second goal of the game when outjumping Newcastle defence at the back post.
Manchester United's Chris Smalling (centre) scores his side's second goal of the game when outjumping Newcastle defence at the back post.

Rob Elliot says Newcastle United have taken heart from their first-half performance at Old Trafford – ahead of a tough run of away games.

Rafa Benitez’s side were beaten 4-1 by Manchester United on Saturday.

Newcastle took the lead at Old Trafford through a Dwight Gayle goal.

But the home team scored twice late in the first half, and, inspired by fit-again Paul Pogba, they took full control of the game after the break.

Goalkeeper Elliot said: “We made an excellent start for the first 30 minutes or so, but then obviously they got the first goal and then that swung the momentum to them.

“During the second half their quality really shone through, so it was a bit disappointing.

“This was a tough game for us, because it was the first time we’ve really gone to one of the big four teams away from home this season, and it’s another new experience for this young squad.

“We’re disappointed, because the way we started showed what we could do, but once their quality and pace shone through, it was tough for us.

“I definitely think the workrate and commitment was there, they just had a little bit too much quality.”

Benitez again set up his team in a 4-4-2 formation with Gayle and Joselu up front.

Newcastle are away to Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham United next month, and Elliot believes the team is capable of taking the game to the opposition away from home.

“We’ve played 4-4-2 at Old Trafford, so we wanted to get on the front foot and control things as best we could be getting after them,” said the 31-year-old.

“If you come here and don’t look to win the game, then you’re just waiting to get beat.

“But, on the flipside, they do have immense quality and they can take half-chances, or with the quality they have really put your box under pressure.

“Once we went 2-1 down, it was a game that was in the balance, but then they got the goal on the break and the game kind of died out from there. The effort was there, though. This was a big learning curve for us, and we have to go to a couple of big grounds in the next few weeks.

“We’ve shown we can take it to these teams, and hopefully we’ll be able to see it through next time.”

Gayle’s goal, scored from his only chance, was the first conceded at home in the league by Man United since April. Elliot said: “He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, but we know what a great striker and finisher he is.

“It was a great finish, and to see him and Joselu working well together is great for the team and gave us a few options out on the pitch.

“We’re not going to have to play Man United away every week, thankfully.

“We’ve got Watford at home (on Saturday), and hopefully we can take our good moments into the game and know we won’t get punished like we were at times here.”

Elliot needed treatment for a dead leg in the second half.

“Hopefully, it’ll be fine for me to come back straightaway,” he said.