Neville and Given criticise Newcastle’s approach

Ian Watson

Gary Neville accused Newcastle of showing “no ambition” at one stage during their 1-0 home defeat to Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Former England and Manchester United defender Neville was among the critics of the Magpies’ defensive tactics which were designed to stifle free-scoring City at St James’ Park.

Newcastle sat unusually deep for long stretches of the match and limited City to just Raheem Sterling’s goal.

If late pressure had paid off then manager Rafael Benitez’s approach could have been considered a masterstroke.

However, City clung on though for an 18th consecutive league win, to pull 15 points clear at the top of the table.

Reacting to Sterling’s 31st-minute goal, Neville said on Sky Sports: “He makes this Newcastle tactic look embarrassing. It has to change.

“There’s defending, and there’s showing absolutely no ambition whatsoever.

“If it were a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it. Hopefully it will spark them into life, to give them something to watch.”

Former Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given was also surprised by the approach adopted by his old club.

“I think even the Newcastle fans just wanted to see someone flying into a tackle. Even that gets them off their seats and they didn’t see that, especially in the first half,” Given said after the final whistle.

“There was definitely an improvement in the second half and Rafael Benitez, you could argue at the end they could have sneaked a draw and everyone would be saying what a fantastic result, which it would have been.

“But in the first half for me it was too defensive, too negative, especially playing at St James’ Park. What will they do when they go to the Etihad, Newcastle? How will they play down there?”

Newcastle head to Manchester for the reverse fixture on January 20.