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Erik ten Hag: Matching ‘best physical team in the league’ Newcastle is ‘a big compliment’

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Erik ten Hag believes it was “a big compliment” to his Manchester United team to match Newcastle United, who he described as “maybe the best physical team in the league.”

What’s the latest Newcastle United news?

After Eddie Howe’s men arguably had the better of it in the first-half, it must be said the home side grew into the game following the break.

Joelinton twice hit the woodwork in the opening 45 minutes and Callum Wilson arguably should have had a penalty claim taken more seriously, while Cristiano Ronaldo was furious to see a goal disallowed and Marcus Rashford squandered a late chance to win the game for ten Hag.

From a Newcastle perspective, it’s promising to see Howe’s side go to Old Trafford and match them blow-for-blow. Granted, the Theatre of Dreams is perhaps not as daunting a prospect as in years gone by but this is still a team who have beaten Arsenal and Liverpool on home soil this season.

Indeed, it did not look like plucky underdogs battling their way to a point. This was two teams competing for the top six having very little to split them.

What did ten Hag say about Newcastle?

Speaking in his post-match press conference, the Dutchman said: “You see a physical team as Newcastle, we matched them, at least. In the end, we could have won and we deserved to win.

“It’s a big compliment to the team that we could deserve this with a physical performance against maybe the best physical team in the league. When you can deliver this, you keep going.”

What do the stats say?

The term “physical” can sometimes be slightly reductive, arguably pointing to a lack of quality and a focus on brawn over brains.

Still – and there’s no suggestion ten Hag is eluding to that – the fact is, Newcastle are hard to play against. Again, they have plenty of quality all over the pitch (Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman and Wilson particularly stand out), but that would count for little in an open team.

According to WhoScored data, only seven teams in the Premier League, three of them in last season’s top five, allow fewer shots on their goal per game (12.5) than Newcastle. Howe’s side also rank ninth for aerial duels won (14.3), 12th for tackles (16) and eighth for interceptions (9.8) over the same period.

FBREF data, meanwhile, notes they sit fourth for ball recoveries all season (863) and second behind Manchester City for pressing actions in the attacking third (374).

Whether or not they really are the most physical team in the League is up for debate and certainly doesn’t mask over the quality Howe’s team are operating with.

Newcastle, at last, are hard to beat.

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