Manchester United returned to action after 16 days away and played like a team lacking match practice against Newcastle.

Here is a look at six things we learned from the 1-1 draw against Newcastle…

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

United’s familiar problems

During the unexpected postponement-enforced break, Manchester United supporters’ desire to see the team playing again grew with each an every day.

Just six minutes into the game at St James’ Park, a familiar feeling of frustration resurfaced as United conceded a soft early goal to Allan Saint-Maximin.


The defence was left with no protection time and time again as Newcastle ran at United’s back four, while captain Harry Maguire was flat-footed and unable to turn quickly enough to block the goalbound shot.

United struggle to create chances each and every game and going a goal down early played right into Newcastle’s hands.

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League
(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Marcus Rashford ineffective in new role

Marcus Rashford starting ahead of Jadon Sancho was the surprise selection in Ralf Rangnick’s line-up, with Mason Greenwood partnering Cristiano Ronaldo up top.

Rashford had not been in great form before the break, and he looked a little lost in the attacking midfield role, in which he was also played out on the right.

In the first 45 minutes Rashford failed to take a single shot at goal or create a single chance, and it was a big surprise he was kept on at half-time.

A total miskick on the hour mark when attempting a shot showed a struggling player, and Rashford’s issues go beyond this one disappointing performance.

(Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

United yet to grasp Rangnick style

United continue to play in a way which invites pressure, with the team giving the ball away too frequently in an attempt to play directly.

The lack of a specialised defensive midfielder is an issue United fans are well aware of, and yet under Rangnick it feels as pronounced as ever.

The break away could conceivably have helped United adjust to Rangnick and his preferred playing style, and yet it did not appear to have helped at all.

There was little evidence of pressing, and the team were disjointed going forward. When United did create rare chances the players snatched at them and looked both rusty and anxious.

(Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

De Gea stays strong

It said everything about Manchester United’s performance that David de Gea was the team’s best player on the night.

While De Gea was left stationary for Newcastle’s opener, he was at his usual heroic self for the rest of thee game, producing one fantastic close range save early in the second half.

If not for the Spaniard, Newcastle would have been out of sight. United’s attackers struggled at the other end, but De Gea largely did his job in a match where he was called into action far more than he should have been needed.

(Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Edinson Cavani is back

United were able to call on Edinson Cavani for the first time since early November and the Uruguayan returned to the scoresheet too.

Cavani looked rusty after coming on at half-time, missing a chance after being cued up by Jadon Sancho, and then missing the first attempt which led to his goal.

Fortunately the ball rebounded in his direction and the striker made Newcastle pay for letting him have too much space, one time too often.

United are a better side when Cavani is in it, and while his contract only runs until next June, this was a reminder the club must hold onto him until then and resist reported interest from Barcelona.

Cavani is a big asset to United and this was evidence by him stepping up on a night on which Cristiano Ronaldo was having an off day.

Top four battle looks like a slog

Points in the bag are better than games in hand, as even simple-to-win matches on paper can turn into tense contests.

An aim at the start of the season was to compete for the title, although this became an impossibility due to the form which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fired.

Now even the battle for the top four looks a slog, with both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur demonstrating impressive form over the past fortnight.

United are seven points behind fourth place at present, albeit with two games in hand.

There is a long way to go this season and United should pick up form at some stage, but Rangnick’s side have it all to do, and are not in a great position. If it carries on like this, the team will be back in the Europa League next season.

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