Manchester United's 1-0 loss away at Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday underlined the need for deep change needed by the Red Devils after another sobering week of reality at Old Trafford after a UEFA Champions League draw away at Galatasaray. Anthony Gordon's goal after 55 minutes was the difference between the two sides at St. James' Park but really the gap between the two was bigger than that when you consider Eddie Howe's depleted squad and the money spent by Erik ten Hag to build this United side.
Newcastle out-shot their visitors on and off target, had more efforts on goal blocked and dominated possession despite being down to the bare bones just days after being agonizingly denied three huge points in the UEFA Champions League away at Paris Saint-Germain. The Magpies and United are not equals given the Manchester giants' storied domestic and continental history but the away side was a poor reflection of themselves on this occasion despite the hosts' own personnel and form issues in recent weeks which meant that this win moved them up to fifth.
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Ten Hag's men put in another lifeless display which mustered one single shot on target over 90 minutes despite being able to align Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Martial from the start with Rasmus Hojlund and Antony sent on over the 90. Newcastle could barely afford to make two substitutions with one of those being the 80th minute introduction of substitute goalkeeper Martin Dubravka yet were allowed to play United off the field at times such was the weekness shown by the Manchester outfit.
At least three goals were scored in Istanbul which might have made the draw all the more painful but at least suggested that United had something to offer while here they were devoid of any real identity and playing style and at times looked like they had not even played together. This result and performance drops the Red Devils out of the Premier League's top six and it comes at a time when Sir Jim Ratcliffe is preparing to enter the club with a minority stake in a situation which only serves to add further uncertainty to the 13-time English champions' immediate outlook.
United's woeful current state should not take anything away from a brave Newcastle side which deservedly earned praise for its showing in Paris despite being undermanned and denied in heartbreaking fashion late on at Parc des Princes. Yet the fact that Howe was able to coax such a showing from his players and that Ten Hag is rarely able to do the same with his team does pose questions over the Dutch tactician which have been present for weeks now since the current rot set it.
A Premier League doubleheader against Chelsea and then Bournemouth could garner points for United, especially with both games being at Old Trafford, but Harry Kane's Bayern Munich in the Champions League the following week will be a totally different level and potentially beyond them. Even if the Manchester giants get a positive result against the Germans, their European fate is no longer in their hands with another UEFA Europa League foray looking more likely which then gets followed up by a trip to Liverpool by which time Ratcliffe might finally have arrived.
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Ordinarily, Ten Hag would be safe to have a chance to show what he can do once new investment in the club is confirmed, yet this display suggests that no major change will be forthcoming until something of more profound importance changes at Old Trafford. Ratcliffe might not want his first major decision to be regarding the manger but if United's league form starts to slide, he might have little choice in the matter.