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I watched Andre Onana’s match against Newcastle to determine if he makes Manchester United teammates anxious.



After another error-strewn performance in the Champions League, former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes


had suggested Andre Onana made his defenders

nervous. You can see where he’s coming from, there are times when you watch Onana with your hands covering your eyes.


Onana was badly at fault for two of Galatasaray’s three goals in Istanbul, but the day before United’s trip to Newcastle Erik ten Hag rushed

to the defence of the goalkeeper he signed to transform his team, reeling off statistics to prove his value to the team.


Like so much of this United side, there is certainly a juxtaposition to Onana. He has kept five clean

sheets in the Premier League but made mistakes at an alarming rate in the Champions League.

Signed to improve United’s ability to play out from the back, there are times when those efforts have been abandoned.


He makes people nervous. I think he makes his defence nervy, his team nervous,” Scholes

had said after that chaotic 3-3 draw with Galatasaray that made United’s Champions League qualification a near impossibility.


He certainly makes you nervous watching, unless your team is trying to score against him,

when his involvement in the games is probably to be welcomed.


What defenders tend to want behind them is a goalkeeper who is unfussy and uncomplicated. Nick Pope is probably a good example.

His game is a simple one. He doesn’t have the confidence of Onana with the ball at his feet, but he makes

a high percentage of saves, looks assured under high balls and projects an air of certainty.


Pope isn’t the elite class of goalkeepers. You wouldn’t describe him as being a modern-day

goalkeeper for a manager determined to play out from the back. But you do wonder if this

United defence would feel more comfortable with someone like that behind them.


At Newcastle, Onana wasn’t at fault for the goal and had some good moments. But he had some nervy ones as well and that is kind of the point.

You were never quite sure what you were going to get and that is not a good place to be with a goalkeeper.


Onana had actually started confidently. When Diogo Dalot

fired a heavy backpass to him inside the first minute, he controlled it instantly and clipped a pass

to the head of Marcus Rashford. But it was another half where Onana showed he can look calm one moment and anxious the next.


He came for Newcastle’s first corner and got nowhere near it.

Dodgy keeper’ bellowed the Gallowgate End, who now felt like they had their man.

Every time the ball was rolled back to United’s under-pressure goalkeeper, the ‘oooohs’ would let him know they were waiting for the mistake.


Before 10 minutes had been played he intimated he was coming for a loose ball in the area, then had

second thoughts. Dalot had to clear but hit the ball against his own arm, backtracking towards his own goalline to clear away. It was shambolic.


By this point, the goalkeeper signed for £47million to improve United’s distribution had given up trying to play out from the back.

Part of the reason Ten Hag likes a left-footer at centre-back – hence picking Luke Shaw – is to help with the build-up play. Here, the

build-up play consisted of Onana smashing goal kicks towards the head of Scott McTominay or Anthony Martial


Onana’s best moment of the first half came when he dived low to his right to push away Miguel Almiron’s shot.

It drew a round of applause from Ten Hag, but there were more nervy moments to come. When he eventually committed to coming for

a looping corner on the half-hour, he could only pat the ball down to Jamaal Lascelles, who took too long to tee up Bruno Guimaraes for a shot.


At one point in the first half, Onana took his time to clip a smart pass into Shaw, setting United on their way to a rare counter-attack.

Five minutes later he chipped a ball straight over the head of Dalot and out of play.


For all of Newcastle’s dominance, their finishing was wayward.

Only four of their 22 shots were on target and the majority were comfortable for Onana.


Once Anthony Gordon had given Newcastle the lead, this became more about the contribution Onana could make with his feet.

Not long after the goal a sloppy touch forced him to pass the ball out of play, but he became better as the game wore on in that department.


There was a sharp turn away from Aleksander Isak when 25 yards from goal and he had to come

to the halfway line to keep United on the attack as they tried to force some late pressure on the Newcastle goal.

Onana spent most of the closing minutes stationed near halfway.


In the analysis of this abysmal defeat, a 1-0 hammering if ever there was one, none of the

scrutiny will fall on Onana. It wasn’t a night he proved he is, without doubt, the answer in goal,

but it wasn’t a night that strengthened Altay Bayindir’s claims to that role either.

Yet the focus on Onana won’t be going away anytime soon.


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