There was a story everywhere you looked. Emil Krafth standing tall in his first Newcastle United appearance after more than 14 months out with a serious knee injury. Paul Dummett, beside him, rolling back the years in the Carabao Cup once more and helping to limit Manchester United to only a couple of shots on target. Matt Ritchie being part of just the second Newcastle team in 50 years to win at Old Trafford after taking so many batterings at the so-called Theatre of Dreams over the years.
Newcastle may have had some big-name absentees, but this momentous 3-0 victory was a night where all the ingredients at the heart of the club’s transformation under Eddie Howe came together: elite coaching, spirit, bravery, commitment and a sprinkling of stardust in the transfer market.
Some of these players had never played a game together – Newcastle’s defence was made up of two veterans and a pair of young full-backs who had made just three starts combined before Wednesday night – yet they are so well-drilled in their respective units that they all know their jobs regardless of who is alongside them. That Dummett and Krafth were still sliding around and throwing their bodies in front of shots at 3-0 up said it all. The pair were desperate to keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford.
So, too, were Lewis Hall and Tino Livramento either side of them; the latter went as far as to say ‘we never want to concede’ after quickly getting to grips with the mentality ‘driven into’ the players every day on the training pitches following his move from Southampton. This certainly felt like a sign of things to come, a night where the decision to potentially invest up to £75m on the pair made sense. In the words of Eddie Howe, these are ‘outstanding prospects’ who will only get better.
“They were signed to push the group, to help our squad,” the Newcastle boss told reporters. “To help our team, you need good players and they are both very good players.
“Now the form of Kieran [Trippier] and Dan [Burn] has been really strong so it’s that competition that will bring the best out of everybody, but they are very important players for the here and now.”
Wednesday night was a reminder of that. Take Hall, for instance, whose sweet volley doubled Newcastle’s advantage in the 36th minute.
Yet it was not just the goal that caught the eye and you can see why the majority of Hall’s senior games for Newcastle and Chelsea have come up against traditional big hitters, particularly on the road, whether it is Man City, Liverpool or Manchester United. The 19-year-old, after all, has the temperament to handle it.
Hall’s previous experience of playing in the middle of the park at academy level also means the composed defender can cope under pressure in tight spaces and the youngster repeatedly played dangerous balls into the left channel in the first half. Defensively, too, Hall was solid as Antony quickly discovered. There were just nine minutes on the clock when Casemiro spotted Antony in space and switched play to pick out his countryman on the right-hand side. The Brazilian tried to bamboozle and embarrass Hall with an elaborate piece of skill, but the young defender simply marched in and took the ball away to loud cheers from the away end nearby.
Similarly, on the opposite flank, man of the match Livramento handled a tricky winger in Alejandro Garnacho and only the tireless Miguel Almiron won back possession on more occasions than the 21-year-old for Newcastle. However, like Hall, with his goal, it was what Livramento did going the other way that understandably grabbed the headlines.
Less than half an hour had been played when Livramento nipped in and dispossessed Garnacho in the right-back position and embarked on a rampaging run that took him past Hannibal Mejbri and Mason Mount before the summer signing showed real maturity and quality to cut inside and play Almiron in with a teasing through ball for Newcastle’s opener. Like Hall, this is where Livramento’s versatility and previous experience in another advanced position again told with a superb assist.
Livramento had not scored, but it was rather telling that Joe Willock rushed to hug his team-mate before Hall then jumped on his fellow Chelsea academy graduate. Newcastle fans roared: “Tino! Tino! Tino!” to acknowledge the creator before then saluting Almiron, the goal scorer. That does not happen very often.
Your mind could not think back to the first time Livramento faced Manchester United back in 2021 and how the right-back left Fred in his wake with a superb lung-busting run that went viral during a man of the match display. Livramento may have since suffered a serious knee injury but, clearly, the Londoner is as rapid and as fearless as ever.
You can’t help but feel there is still so much to come. Not only from Livramento, but from Hall, too.
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