It has been more than 25 years since Kevin Keegan’s infamous tirade when Newcastle battled Manchester United for the Premier League title.
Keegan’s passionate outburst, as he felt the momentum in the 1995/96 Premier League title beginning to tip in United’s favour, resulted in extraordinary viewing. It also gave Sir Alex Ferguson exactly what he wanted.
The rivalry between United and Newcastle in the late 1990s was the Premier League at its gripping best. It’s a shame it didn’t last long.
United continued to contend for top honors in the next decade after that tirade, while Newcastle succumbed to decline. Ferguson delivered more Premier League titles and Champions League success, while Newcastle’s results gradually worsened.
The rivalry of the late 90s ceased to exist. There was no longer competition between the two clubs. United had won the battle and obviously the war. United won the Premier League title in 2009 while Newcastle were relegated, but it had only been 13 years since Ferguson and Keegan had met. The contrasting fortunes of the two clubs were marked.
Since then, United have seen their own decline but remain in a different league to Newcastle, albeit metaphorically speaking.
United are always expected to beat Newcastle. They are expected to be superior in the field. There is no rivalry.
That was until October 7, when Newcastle theoretically became the richest club in the world, backed by millions of Saudis.
Newcastle are now one of the most powerful clubs in the world, which is almost absurd to suggest considering they are entrenched at the bottom of the table. They have won just two Premier League games all season and it was a damning indictment of United’s current situation under Ralf Rangnick that Newcastle were the better side when the clubs recently drew 1-1 at St. James’ Park.
While this season’s results would lead you to believe otherwise, Newcastle pose a threat to United again. The Saudi-backed takeover has promised levels of investment to Manchester City and that will not go down well with those in power at Old Trafford.
Although Newcastle will take years to progress, its great wealth almost guarantees a semblance of success.
However, his project could be cut short by relegation to the Championship this season and that’s certainly a nice thought for neutrals. Newcastle would be a laughingstock if they fell. They would receive little sympathy for their struggles.
The Magpies are desperately trying to improve their chances of survival but are struggling to maneuver through the January transfer window. Kieran Trippier has been an impressive addition: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted to sign the right-back in the summer, but they have only made two signings with three days to go. They remain hopelessly vulnerable in key positions.
Newcastle are now in talks with Lyon for the transfer of Bruno Guimaraes and that would fix their lack of control of matches in midfield. It would be a genuinely standout signing and a move that United should consider hijacking.
The Manchester Evening News he understands that signing a midfielder is United’s transfer priority and Guimaraes could be the player they have desperately needed for more than two seasons.
The 24-year-old has quietly built a cult following in the analytics community on social media and that’s for good reason. Guimares is one of the best ball passers in Europe. He is also the complete midfielder.
Guimaraes has primarily played in Lyon’s defensive midfield, but that position does not define him. He is technically exceptional, comfortable in tight spaces and his dynamic range of passing allows him to orchestrate attacks like a puppeteer.
The Brazilian is always the catalyst for his team to progress with the ball. He has played more passes into the final third (226) than any other midfielder in Europe’s top five leagues this season and ranks fifth in Ligue 1 for possession gained in midfield (71).
Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni (106), formerly linked with United, actually sits at the top of that metric. It’s also worth comparing Guimarares to Fred and Scott McTominay, though honestly the comparison between the three isn’t much of a comparison.
Guimaraes ranks better than Fred and McTominay in all key passing metrics. He has averaged more successful passes, more successful key passes, more successful long passes, final third passes and successful crosses per 90 than either player.
Not to mention that Guimaraes has also averaged more successful dribbles and successful attacking actions per 90 than Fred and McTominay. It’s clear the midfielder would be an upgrade and, at around £40m, the transfer could be an inspiring deal.
United are currently refusing to engage in talks with Newcastle to allow Jesse Lingard to leave on loan.
A move through Guimaraes might rub salt in those wounds, but more importantly, it would solve United’s glaring midfield problem.
Comparator is a soccer data comparison tool for 271 professional leagues around the world that compares players and clubs using more than 100 different parameters. Please click here for more details.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.