Drinking, alone, at 10.30am in the middle of Newcastle. It’s pouring with rain and I don’t have a jacket. Football must be back.

Met the lads at 11(ish) and talked about players, people not going, people going, Steve Bruce, the previous manager, Lee Charnely’s patter in the programme and other stuff.

Match of the Day want to do an interview with me and it’s pissing it down. No media outlet ever wants to talk when United are winning games and doing well, so football must be back.

Two lads in the pub next to me talking about Rafa being too hard on the players in training, nice to see players smiling when playing (we haven’t played a competitive game yet lads). Two other lads calling Charnley and Ashley things I couldn’t put in this fanzine without the threat of legal action. Four people supporting the same football club. Don’t know each other but to an uninformed listener they’d be talking about two football clubs. Hopelessly divided.

Then the football started. Nothing felt different on the walk up and on the concourse. There seemed to be at least 45k in then the attendance was released as nearly 48k. I’ve read little other than of boycotts, of protests and of action. It’s been given loads of air time by loads of people. The manager has been asked about it. In the end some stayed away but the absolute majority went.

Will there be any introspection from a football club ownership who’ve scandalously  forced fans into missing the game or giving up tickets for the desire of a better football club? Don’t hold your breath. Will the boycott organisers look at failure to mobilise any serious numbers for this (as well as the late walk in last season, the boycott last season, the ‘sit in’ against Man City last season, the doomed trip to shirebrook last season) and think what they have to do differently? They have a planned meeting this week to decide on steps.

The thing is is everyone thinks they’re a success. Charnely will be delighted with 47k. So I read, are the boycotters proclaiming it a great start. Can’t they both be wrong without either being right?

 

If United continue to play like they did today there’ll be more empty seats very soon at St James’ Park. United looked flat in the first half and despite Shelvey hitting a post and Joelinton hitting the keeper, we didn’t threaten. Arsenal were kept at bay but are Arsenal in name only these days (a bit like us but people were saying that in 2005 about nufc).

Still, goalless at half time and they looked poor. One goal would win it I thought. It did and it was dreadful. Dummet selling Willems short with a hospital pass (and a hospital reaction from the new left back) and the game was won. They didn’t threaten to extend the lead and we didn’t threaten to resemble a coherent side in the second half.

No midfielders on the bench looked ‘brave’ before the game and stupid after it. If Bruce wanted to ‘kick on’ from last season today was a great chance to set the right tone for the season ahead and take the pressure off heading into two really tough games on the road. He’s failed on those fronts.

It isn’t terminal and it isn’t time to call time on this team. The result was bad but the tactical mess was worse. Three central midfielders only works if the full backs push up all game. They didn’t. Almiron and Joelinton ended up dropping deeper and deeper in search of the ball.

Onto Norwich where points are needed. Today wasn’t remotely enjoyable for loads of reasons. Football is back.

 

Alex Hurst