The good news: As far as goalless draws go, last night’s scoreless stalemate at St. James’ Park was about as entertaining as they come.
The bad news: Manchester United are perhaps in the entertaining business only in the preseason, and come late April and May, it’s 1000% results, 0% anything else.
And with that markedly more important objective in mind, United have picked a terrible time to suddenly forget how to put the ball in the back of the net.
On Saturday, United were blanked for only the fifth time in 51 competitive matches this season in the FA Cup semifinal defeat, with Dimitar Berbatov’s 15th minute horror missing sticking out as the miss of the day in in an overall forgettable 90 minutes.
Prior to that, United had scored – not counting any own goals – 98 goals in 50 matches (69 Premier League, 12 Champions League, 8 Carling Cup, 6 FA Cup, 3 Community Shield), and given that we hadn’t been blanked in competitive matches in more than two years and that the in-form duo of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez was once again starting up front against a suspect Newcastle defense and a reserve keeper, you’d have expected a real bounce-back effort on the attacking end.
Unfortunately, it appears that whatever bad vibes from the Wembley defeat carried over to last night, because to say that United’s finishing left something to be desired would be a serious understatement.
Newcastle did indeed put in a brave defensive effort, and Tim Krul and his head were quite handy for the home side, but United had more than a fair amount of clear chances and failed to convert a single one.
Those missed opportunities could have – and perhaps should have – proven costly had Newcastle not had their own finishing issues, but in the end, each side got a deserved result for what they did do and what they didn’t do.
Once again unfortunately, that result does more favors for Newcastle, who have hit the 40-point target that more often than not means Premier League survival, and with five games remaining, have the opportunity to consolidate a solid finish in the top half of the table.
The point takes United to 70, seven clear of Arsenal and nine clear of Chelsea, so for the time being, it stands as a point gained. However, those advantags could both be trimmed in the next couple of hours, with the Gunners visiting Tottenham and Carlo Ancelotti’s side facing the far easier task (at least on paper) of hosting safety-chasing Birmingham at home.
Not only does the result remind us of our previous issues with being up to the task away from Old Trafford, but missing out on the three points means that there’s a little less leeway to slip up from here, especially in the matches against our London-based title rivals. So hey, it’s easy to be a little nervous.
But should we be? With history on our side, with three home matches still ahead, and a side and a manager experienced in these kind of testy situations, to worry would be to underestimate, and by now, we should know that’s the last thing that anyone – and especially a supporter – should do when it comes to Manchester United.