Newcastle United midfielder ‘the fittest in world football’ as Bruno Guimaraes benefits v AC Milan

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Newcastle United kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 0-0 draw against last season’s semi-finalists, AC Milan.

This day was 20 years in the making.

From the depths of the Mike Ashley regime, to Steve Bruce via the likes of Joe Kinnear, Newcastle United fans have been put through the mill over the years. And for that reason, no matter the result, no matter the performance, little was going to dampen their night back in Europe.

And let’s be honest, taking a point from the San Siro against last season’s semi-finalists, amid a backdrop of domestic slips, is no mean feat. But how did they do it - and what is there to take from the encounter?

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Here’s five things Eddie Howe will no doubt be pouring over with Sheffield United, Manchester City and Burnley waiting in the wings domestically and PSG next up in the Champions League.

Bruno Guimaraes of Newcastle United challenges for the ball with Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic of AC Milan during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between AC Milan and Newcastle United FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 19, 2023 in Milan, Italy. Bruno Guimaraes of Newcastle United challenges for the ball with Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic of AC Milan during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between AC Milan and Newcastle United FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 19, 2023 in Milan, Italy.
Bruno Guimaraes of Newcastle United challenges for the ball with Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic of AC Milan during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between AC Milan and Newcastle United FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 19, 2023 in Milan, Italy. | Getty Images

Experience matters: NUFC’s seasoned pros stood up in San Siro

If a result was to be garnered, the Magpies had to be able to lean on their dressing room leaders, their experienced pros, the lads who’d been there and done it.

And luckily, where it had been missing against Man City, Liverpool and Brighton, Howe’s main men stood up and were counted.

Chief protagonist in this argument was Kieran Trippier. The England man was imperious in the white hot environment, using every ounce of everything he learned with Gareth Southgate’s men, with Atletico Madrid and Tottenham to grind things out on the right.

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Also leading from example in the middle was Bruno Guimaraes, who knows this is the arena in which he belongs.

Final mention must go to Nick Pope. Newcastle do not claim a point without his assured second half and heroic first.

Show me a fitter midfielder in world football...

Another to be picked out, upon which Bruno was able to build his own performance, was Sean Longstaff.

Many a player of his level has wilted under such pressure, but the biggest compliment I can pay him is, he looked every bit at home in the San Siro.

Show me a fitter midfielder in world football, I’ll wait.

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Sean Longstaff was back to his best days, a throwback to last season. Sean Longstaff was back to his best days, a throwback to last season.
Sean Longstaff was back to his best days, a throwback to last season. | Getty Images

Attacking disconnect - the problem that needs solving

I’m keen not to dwell on too many negatives on what was an ultimately positive night for the Magpies, but they were far from their fluent best - and that’s an understatement.

Things aren’t right up top, with the front three constantly changed and finding little quality when needed, as well as a midfield that just doesn’t look right.

In truth, Newcastle may not have scored were they still playing now. But, like I say, the result is all that matters.

Howe’s Isak gamble

Eddie Howe diced with death in this encounter - and it was a reliance on Alexander Isak that could have proved so costly.

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This wasn’t anything about the decision to play the Swede as a central striker from the off, although he did little to justify that in the 90. This was more about leaving him on, when his race looked ran, and putting him out left, with substitute Alessandro Florenzi running past him at will.

Crosses galore came in in the final 15 from that very area, but luckily United’s solid backline and brick wall Pope wouldn’t bend.

Far from dream return for Tonali

Ruben Loftus-Cheek of AC Milan challenges for the ball with Sandro Tonali of Newcastle United during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between AC Milan and Newcastle United FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 19, 2023 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)Ruben Loftus-Cheek of AC Milan challenges for the ball with Sandro Tonali of Newcastle United during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between AC Milan and Newcastle United FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 19, 2023 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek of AC Milan challenges for the ball with Sandro Tonali of Newcastle United during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between AC Milan and Newcastle United FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 19, 2023 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images) | Getty Images

He was the most popular man in Milan again, Sandro Tonali got a heroes welcome from his former fans from minute one on Tuesday night.

However, his presence in midfield definitely poses more questions than it provides answers.

While his quality and tenacity are not in doubt, he doesn’t look to have a defensive bone in his body and looks laboured at times in the press and closing down in both halves.

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