David De Gea, Harry Maguire, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford may have all started for Manchester United at St James’ Park but none of them were able to come anywhere near close to matching the performance of Newcastle United’s Matty Longstaff on Sunday.
Longstaff, 19, was handed his Premier League debut by Steve Bruce prior to the game and the midfielder failed to look anywhere near out of place, or out of his depth, as Newcastle won 1-0 versus the Red Devils courtesy of the teenager’s second-half goal.
Ex-Man United defender Bruce played a masterstroke to get the first win of his managerial career against his former club.
Although the decision to start Longstaff in the midfield was largely forced due to Isaac Hayden’s suspension and Jonjo Shelvey’s injury, it was a decision that Bruce would have no doubt toyed with after last week’s 5-0 demolition at the hands of Leicester in a bid to get fans back on side in what has been a turbulent week in the North-East.
If you want players to go out onto the field, wear their hearts on their sleeves, put in 110 per cent and prove that ambition, determination and pure guts matter above all else, then use players who have something to prove. Use players who love the club. Use players who will do whatever it takes to earn a win.
That is what boyhood Magpie Longstaff did on Sunday for Newcastle. And that is also what none of the Manchester United players did during their time on the pitch.
According to Sky Sports Statto, no player covered more ground [11.36km] in the match than Longstaff while stats by WhoScored show that the 19-year-old had 48 touches of the ball – more than Mata , Daniel James  and Rashford  – and played 28 accurate passes, which was more than any of his Newcastle team-mates managed.
It’s a good time to mention, yet again, that this was Longstaff’s Premier League debut.
— #UCL (@ZWODDE_) October 6, 2019
Man United’s underperforming stars should be shown a DVD of Longstaff’s display before they return to action after the upcoming international break with a North-West derby showdown against Liverpool.
It’s almost as if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s players don’t care about the club, once widely seen as the biggest and best in the world of football.
Old Trafford legend Gary Neville saw something special from Longstaff in Newcastle’s win over United and maybe that is something that Solskjaer needs to drill into his players over the coming weeks.
“He’s given a young boy a chance and that boy has delivered like you wouldn’t believe,” said Neville on Bruce’s decision to start Longstaff on Sky Sports Main Event [Sunday, 06:24pm].
“From the very first minute of the game, he wanted it, he fought for it.
“And in the end, he nearly got the goal in the first half but he finally got it in the second.
“Look at that smile. There’s nothing better for a young player who has a dream.”
Man United may have been ravaged by injuries but their starting line-up still contained Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper, the world’s most-expensive centre-back, a Brazil international, a player with 250 Premier League appearances and one of England’s most highly-rated young strikers.
There is no excuse for them to be shown up by a teenager who was making his first league appearance for the team that was sat second from bottom of the table prior to kick-off.
If there was a smell to sum up Man United’s performances lately, it was the unmistakable smell of burnt toast.
Maybe something, or someone, has been left in the heat for too long.