Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce during the Premier League clash as Manchester United's Tahith Chong looks on. Image Credit: Reuters

Newcastle: Manchester United succumbed in front of the Gallowgate End but, while this was another public execution, it is becoming a slow painful death for them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer almost lost his footing as he left the sodden St James’ Park pitch on Sunday after yet another slip-up by his team, who now sit just two points outside the relegation places.

To put that further in perspective, they are, after just eight games, a stunning and wholly unacceptable 15 points behind leaders Liverpool who, after the international break, are their next opponents at Old Trafford.

It could not be more miserable. It could not be more bereft of ideas or dispiriting, which was probably also the sense shared by the Newcastle fans as they poured into a dank, wet stadium in what has been a dismal campaign for them, but left with songs resonating around this proud old hilltop cathedral.

What a difference a game makes. What a difference a new local hero makes — especially to Newcastle, who always crave such figures. They cheered raucously as Andy Carroll came on as a second-half substitute, but it was a 19-year-old kid from North Shields making his Premier League debut, and doing so alongside his brother in the centre of midfield, who did it. Matty Longstaff struck the only goal, a crisp unerring low drive as he ran onto the ball that beat a static David de Gea and found the net. And that all came in a counter-attack from a Manchester United corner. Longstaff reeled away kissing the badge with the Newcastle fans singing “he’s one of our own”.

How a beleaguered Steve Bruce needed this after a 5-0 beating away to Leicester City as — at his 24th attempt — he finally defeated his former club as a manager and in doing so lifted Newcastle out of the bottom three and only a point behind United.

Solskjaer will turn to a long injury-list, missing six first-team players, but the verdict of his own captain De Gea was pretty brutal and should not be taken lightly. “It is not acceptable, not just this game, but the whole season,” the goalkeeper said. “It is the most difficult time since I have been here. I don’t know what is happening.”

Asked what needed to improve he said: “Everything”.

Solskjaer himself is grasping for answers. Re-build is his buzzword, but are the foundations there? Are the young players good enough (the older ones do not appear to be so) and does he really believe he can do this? Confidence is shot. Gone. Disappeared — with Solskjaer admitting as much as he talked about his players acting like the ball was “a hot potato” in the first-half. “It seemed like we could not control the ball,” he said. “Decision-making was not good enough.

“Confidence is a big thing ... when there is a decision to be made they don’t do it instinctively.”

The fans have not turned on him; not the visiting supporters anyway and as they sang throughout, the only dissent came with a chant of wanting the Glazer family out of the club they have owned for 14 years.

“We are unhappy with the result and I have to say sorry to the fans that we are losing games,” Solskjaer said. “We are starting a rebuild here ... we will get there. We have given ourselves a very, very tough task to get into the top four. But at the moment we can’t win games.”

It is painful to watch and hear. Will they stick with Solskjaer and for how much longer? United have their lowest points tally after eight games since 1989. They have not won any of their last 11 away games. But — more than any avalanche of statistics — it is what is being witnessed. With the honourable exception of Axel Tuanzebe, the visitors were woeful: in defence, in midfield and in attack. There were no redeeming features.



Liverpool 8 8 0 0 20 6 24

Man City 8 5 1 2 27 9 16

Arsenal 8 4 3 1 13 11 15

Leicester 8 4 2 2 14 7 14

Chelsea 8 4 2 2 18 14 14

Palace 8 4 2 2 8 8 14

Burnley 8 3 3 2 11 9 12

West Ham 8 3 3 2 11 11 12

Tottenham 8 3 2 3 14 12 11

Bournemouth 8 3 2 3 13 13 11

Wolvers 8 2 4 2 11 11 10

Man United 8 2 3 3 9 8 9

Sheffield 8 2 3 3 7 7 9

Brighton 8 2 3 3 8 10 9

Aston Villa8 2 2 4 13 12 8

Newcastle 8 2 2 4 5 13 8

Southampton 8 2 1 5 8 15 7

Everton 8 2 1 5 6 13 7

Norwich 8 2 0 6 10 21 6

Watford 8 0 3 5 4 20 3