THE unbeaten record has gone but the confidence – and boldness – should remain.
Newcastle United tumbled to their first defeat of the season at Manchester City on Saturday, but their performance was creditable and their ambition laudable.
Alan Pardew should not be tempted to draw up the shutters for Old Trafford and a similar selection policy would say a lot about where he sees his side this year.
It is easy to talk about going to the runaway Premier League leaders and talking about ‘having a go,’ but selecting the attack-minded Sammy Ameobi and the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa was proof Pardew has belief in his team.
Such is the strength Manchester City have assembled in their grotesquely extravagant Premier League land grab tit was always going to be an uphill task.
However, United’s bold strategy very nearly paid off.
Had Ben Arfa not struck the post, or Demba Ba found Joe Hart in England form they would have had the Citizens wobbling.
As it was, Ryan Taylor was the cruel fall guy on a day Newcastle proved why they should not be patronised or palmed off by anyone this season – the champions included.
Man for man, you would not back Pardew’s men to get much more change out of the Red Devils this weekend, but there are a few reasons why Newcastle might still fancy their chances.
The return of key men will add steel and creativity to their midfield, while Leon Best offers the sort of work rate which might make Manchester United’s unsteady defence sweat.
It sounds strange to talk of a back four wobbling when they have just kept five straight clean sheets, but there is little doubt Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have weaknesses.
Sunderland made them look vulnerable a fortnight ago, and if Newcastle have the luck their North East rivals did not they have a chance.
There is a saying fortune favours the brave and lets hope Pardew (pictured right) remembers that. Ben Arfa – who looked as if he was getting closer to his best at the Etihad Stadium – needs to remain and could be complimented by the return of Cheick Tioté.
As for Taylor, his two mistakes were punished by Roberto Mancini’s men but that will be where his torment ends.
Pardew hailed him as a “hero” for his work so far this season and, if recent history has taught us anything, it is that he is has the fortitude to bounce back.
If Pardew stays true to his footballing philosophies, the same could be true of his team.