SU­PER MAC Toon’s fate could be de­cided by Yule­tide

WINS IN CRU­CIAL GAMES AHEAD ARE VI­TAL IF THE MAG­PIES ARE TO EN­JOY VERY HAPPY CHRIST­MAS

The Chronicle - - Safc - Mal­colm Mac­don­ald

NEW­CAS­TLE United are about to re­ceive the best Christ­mas present pos­si­ble - or the worst.

Be­cause come Santa’s visit the Mag­pies can ei­ther be vir­tu­ally safe from the dreaded threat of rel­e­ga­tion or be doomed.

They have a shock­ing run of fix­tures out of the way up to the in­ter­na­tional break hav­ing played Spurs, Chelsea, Arse­nal. Manch­ester City and Manch­ester United, los­ing the lot by a sin­gle goal.

Now is their op­por­tu­nity to col­lect much­needed points.

The 10 games lead­ing up to Christ­mas are Brighton

(h), Southamp­ton (a), Wat­ford (h), Bournemouth (h), Burn­ley (a), West Ham (h), Ever­ton (a), Wolves (h), Hud­der­s­field (a) and Ful­ham (h).

All are winnable, though no team is go­ing to win them all of course. How­ever, a boun­ti­ful har­vest is avail­able. Now let us think of the al­ter­na­tive. If United do not gain a good num­ber of points then they can be down, or vir­tu­ally so, by Christ­mas.

I feel un­easy. I have to say that as much as it pains me.

This squad wor­ries me. Los­ing can be­come a habit just like win­ning can and they have lost six out of eight in the Premier League. Seven out of nine if you in­clude the League Cup. What both­ers me more than los­ing to the big guns, when surely the odd point could have been gleaned some­where, is not win­ning any of the sup­pos­edly-eas­ier matches against Cardiff, Crys­tal Palace, Le­ices­ter and Not­ting­ham For­est.

These are the sort of sides New­cas­tle are about to face search­ing for their sal­va­tion. I have thought all sea­son a train­ing ses­sion on Thurs­day United can­not win be­cause they can­not score goals. Then they grab two in the first 10 min­utes at Man U and still lose!

It was the first time this sea­son they have scored first and the first time they have scored more than once in a game. Yet it brought pre­cisely nowt.

I am des­per­ate to find a chink of light. I re­ally am.

United MUST sur­vive for the sake of the fans, of the man­ager, and of the play­ers who are big­hearted and will­ing.

How­ever it feels to me like Mike Ash­ley has killed this club and the fact he now ap­pears to knows it hav­ing deemed to turn up for the last three matches is no con­so­la­tion.

The mo­ment The Red Devils pulled a goal back at Old Traf­ford we knew what was go­ing to hap­pen.

All the con­fi­dence drained out of United as though the plug had been pulled out of a full sink.

Martin Dubravka pulled off a string of su­per saves yet we still leaked three goals in the last 45 min­utes.

For the win­ner, New­cas­tle left two play­ers un­marked in a crowded six-yard box.

The ball sailed over the head of the first to be headed in by the sec­ond, one of the small­est guys on the pitch. Manch­ester United were as bad in the open­ing half as I have seen them since Bobby Charl­ton re­tired in the seven­ties and the club was rel­e­gated. These are wor­ry­ing times yet Ben­itez is help­less in terms of bring­ing much-needed new tal­ent in. He has to face these cru­cial 10 games with what he has.

He will have to call on all his or­gan­i­sa­tional skills and the play­ers on all their re­serves of de­ter­mi­na­tion and pride to res­cue a se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion.

United MUST sur­vive for the sake of the fans, of the man­ager, and of the play­ers who are big-hearted and will­ing

Rafa Ben­itez talks to his play­ers dur­ing

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