The big reason for Newcastle United optimism as Pep Guardiola drops new hint on future
Guardiola’s side won 2-0 yesterday, but this latest defeat at the Etihad Stadium – the club has never won there in the Premier League – wasn’t quite like many of the losses which had gone before.
Newcastle had conceded 12 goals without reply in the previous three fixtures at the stadium. United, embarrassed on a number of occasions at the Etihad Stadium, again didn’t score at the ground, but defeat was different.
Eddie Howe’s side gave as good as they got for most of the game, and the match was ultimately decided by the quality of Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva.
Fans may have feared the worst when Foden gave City a 15th-minute later after driving into the box and shooting – his effort was deflected in by Sven Botman – but the strike didn’t open the floodgates.
And Newcastle were on top – and pushing for an equaliser – when Guardiola brought Silva off the bench in the 65th minute looking for his team to make better use of possession. Silva scored two minutes later after a turnover led to a quick break from City.
Guardiola spoke about United being an “exceptional” team when asked about that stage of the game.
City’s manager was then asked if he felt that Newcastle, taken over in late 2021 by an ambitious consortium, would soon be challenging for the league title.
Guardiola said: “Title? I don’t know. But in a short time, a really, really short time, because they took over not a long time ago, it was last season. If they start to rise and increase and increase, of course they will be a contender.”
United are now 80%-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and Guardiola likened the club’s journey to City’s since their takeover by Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group.
“It happened quite similar at Manchester City,” said Guardiola. “Our Abu Dhabi owners took over the club to win the Premier League. But Newcastle will be there.”
So Newcastle had played with pace and purpose, and they’d been unfortunate with the first goal, with Botman having diverted a shot past his goalkeeper for the second successive game.
Hit and miss
The concern on Tyneside, following a third successive 2-0 defeat, is up front. United, again, created chances – but, again, couldn’t take them.
Callum Wilson, Anthony Gordon, Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin and Sean Longstaff all had opportunities over the course of the afternoon. And Howe – who had been without Fabian Schar due to concussion protocols – could well recall Alexander Isak to his starting XI for Sunday’s home game against 13th-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The fixture is followed by an away game against Nottingham Forest on March 17.
After tough defeats to City, Manchester United and Liverpool, Newcastle now have the opportunity to get some more points on the board ahead of the international break later this month.
United are on a poor run of results, but the performances, in many aspects, have been positive, and Howe’s team can take a lot of confidence from the way they played against the champions.
And, in Isak, Howe might just have the answer to his goalscoring problems.