All hail Manchester City for mercilessly doing what Rochdale and Oxford couldn’t quite manage (throw in a dominant West Brom reserves for the last half hour at the Hawthorns as well) and hoying us out of the cup.

Man City were good. They are good. I can’t think of many games in this era with this manager when they aren’t better than the other team, even if they lose.   So that’s that out of the way.

What can you do?  It looks like we opted for no humiliation so no ramifications. Move on to Bournemouth and the war on last seasons points tally so the manager and some journalists can prove a point. It’s everything you dream of isn’t it?

The odds are against us but the beauty of cup football is you can just say ‘fuck it lets have a go’.  They don’t just have better players but a better manager, better staff, better training facilities and probably a better coach to the ground.  None of those things forced Steve Bruce set the side up as he did.  A first half so weak I can only assume the plan was for United to start the game like they finished last time out in this competition at West Brom, dreadfully.

I’d like to use the term shambolic but I think…it was planned?  Sit deep, sit off and hope.  When Steve Bruce had to swallow his pride and ditch the system he said the players ‘had’ to play (5 unbeaten since he did this) to save the season imploding he did so knowing that he was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. I have an ounce of respect for him for tearing up the game plan 27 games in and starting again. It was Bruce’s ‘England would be playing Four-Four-Fucking-Two’ moment and it worked.  Since then we’ve stopped conceding and even started scoring. Today we went backwards four months to a system that has produced 0 good performances this season and had been ruthlessly exposed by almost every Premier League team.  The biggest game of the season tossed off in the hope we could get in get out and hold our heads up high as they’re just better.

The Cup is a once off game. People might get angrier on twitter if you get tanked three or four but the result is the same.  You’re out. There’s no goal difference to protect and no next game to think of in this competition.  I feared this. We all feared this really.  Everything was against Newcastle United in this tie, so we decided to let them score first and go from there. There was always a chance it could go badly wrong.  We’re due a hiding.  Martin Dubravka has allowed several defeats to flatter us. It’s because he’s really good and our best player. So naturally, he was dropped for the biggest game of the season. Fabian Schar has started two games this year and they’ve both gone terribly (Leicester and Palace).  He was straight into a back three that signalled we’d be up for shaking hands at 0 2 pre-game and getting back to talking up the job the manager has done this season even though the season is still being played.

We put in a performance in the first half that I’d imagine Blyth Spartans or Berwick Rangers would have been proud of against the same opponents.  You can blame Fabian Schar.  You can think ‘what if he doesn’t do that’ but I  can reveal to you – Manchester City still score.  So Schar has his moment of madness and the game is over but the game was over when the team sheet came out and we decided to just let them play however they wanted. Maybe it’s unlucky Shelvey and Ritchie aren’t fit but then just like in December everyone else seems to be making changes game on game to avoid injuries and our lads have the harshest paper rounds but also play most games with 30% of the ball.

Steve Bruce then changes things fairly quickly and we look a bit better,  We try and run toward them when they have the ball instead of running away. They start misplacing passes and we get up the pitch a bit.  It’s not Arsenal 4 4 as a second half turn around  but  we do okay.  Andy Carroll used to be a striker but he’s been given a new contract for getting 4 assists.  I read in one newspaper that he’s our Man of the Match.  At Newcastle United we used to fall in love with strikers for scoring goals.  Now players who don’t touch the ball in the opposition penalty area are deemed to be our best.  Man City are just better though, remember that. It’s them not us.

Dwight Gayle does what Dwight Gayle will do and misses a golden chance (it probably would have been ruled out by VAR as he fouled their player to get the chance but ignore that for now). Rafa Benitez wanted to move Gayle on in 2018 but he’s still here, playing up front for Newcastle United, missing the chance that could fix all of our broken dreams.  He also scored against Aston Villa this week and when he plays gets into the box sometimes unlike Carroll (can’t run), Joelinton (won’t run) or Muto (not sure he actually exists).

It’s frustrating that we are so bad for so much of the game but then could be level and could go through.  Don’t get angry at Dwight Gayle.  He’s scored more goals for Newcastle than anyone else you want to start in his place.  I can’t think of another Premier League side that would play him but then I can’t think of another striker in the league that cost as much as Joelinton, is then described as ‘probably not a centre forward’ by his manager six months after being played at centre forward by the same manager.  You’ve got Caroll who Lee Mason penalised for breathing in the Man City half or Muto who no one has seen in person since that goal at Old Trafford. ‘Dwight Gayle is not a Premier League player’ you fume. Aye I know but what does that make the lads he’s played in front of at home to Burnley or away to Southampton?  What does it make Newcastle United for trying to get rid of him for about 6 transfer windows in a row but then relied on him to come back in from the cold 27 games into try and save a season?

We’re always missing the point or forgetting what it is.  Easy targets and that.  Newcastle United under Mike Ashley are always going to lose these games and we get on with it. The set up by the manager here was similar to Rafa Benitez at home in 2017 on Boxing Day when national Sky Pundits wondered what had happened to their perfect league. They missed the point that day as it wasn’t us, it was them, our opponents.  Financially doped to the extent they’re now banned fro Europe. So, cheated in Europe but not in the league aye? Best league in the world etc.    .  Then 13 months later than that rancid game those same tactics beat the same opponent with full backs that pushed high and a centre forward who won free kicks, terrorised centre halves and then did what strikers did before they ‘probably’ weren’t strikers – scored.

Today we went set up like it was 2017 when the football world recoiled and we got out with a small defeat and then went and won at Stoke and it was massive.  Wednesday we go and play Bournemouth and really, beyond the 90 minutes of something to watch and talk about, who cares?  It’s all about this takeover.  It’s been about this takeover for almost a year since the lights were turned out on Ashley’s Newcastle United by a departing Spaniard.  We need a takeover to stop being the side that if we’d won that game 2 0 would still be talking about it two years later.  Instead we want to be the club that in two months time will be hard pressed to remember anything about this quarter final at all.

It didn’t have to be like this today. It never does.  I’m used to losing and if you’re still reading this then so are you but Jesus Christ that was Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United today in it’s purest form, so terrified of humiliation that we set up to lose, just not by much. Just like we did on 2017.  Nothing changes but it still gets worse.   We need a new owner and we need the Premier League to get a grip and get a move on.

This hasn’t really been a match report but then there wasn’t really a match.

Alex Hurst