Why Kieran Trippier might not return to Newcastle United’s starting XI as early as first predicted
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An injury-time winner from Bruno Guimaraes sealed another big three points for Newcastle United against Leicester City.
And Eddie Howe’s men came from behind to do it too, with Guimares cancelling out Ademola Lookman’s 19th-minute opener.
Then, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, the Brazilian headed home a dramatic winner to send St James’ Park into pandemonium.
Here are Jordan Cronin’s five talking points from the 2-1 victory:
Magical Bruno strikes again
This might sound fairly ludicrous given he scored both of Newcastle’s goals but Guimaraes wasn’t even at his peak against the Foxes - if you compare to his recent high standards anyway.
When the clock hit the half-hour mark, I even tweeted myself that the Brazilian was having a quiet afternoon. Naturally, three minutes later, he had the ball in the net!
A Jonjo Shelvey corner was bundled home by the midfielder. It was initially ruled out for a foul on Kasper Schmeichel until Jared Gillett changed his decision at the VAR monitor.
From there to the end of the first-half, he came alive, almost assisting a Matt Targett goal when he found the left-back at the back post, though his header was aimed straight at Schmeichel.
Again, after the break, he wasn’t able to dictate proceedings as he had previously but still had his moments of sheer class. Guimaraes, so impressively, has such a calmness in possession and know-how about him.
Even though he was arguably a few yards off his dominant best, Bruno remained a level above. He is beyond anything I have seen at St James’ Park over the last 20+ years.
Another area of his game that is seriously impressive is his energy and desire to get between both boxes, epitomised by his injury-time winner as he sprinted up the pitch to meet substitute Joe Willock’s cross.
Questions were asked if Guimaraes could adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League. Well, it’s fair to say he’s answered that with flying colours as he played on, despite receiving treatment on a back injury at half-time.
It’s crazy to think Guimaraes hadn’t scored a goal since May 2021 prior to his £35million move to Newcastle. In fact, he only managed three goals in 71 appearances for Lyon. He’s already equalled that total for Newcastle in just five starts.
The Magpies did not bring Guimaraes to Tyneside expecting him to score goals but during his three months at St James’ Park, he’s shown to be a complete midfielder.
Guimaraes said told Sky Sports after the game he wants to become a legend at Newcastle. Given the quality he’s shown on the pitch, and the way he has endeared himself to the fanbase already, he’s certainly doing all the right things.
Emil Krafth, the unsung hero on the day
It may seem a little mad giving the man of the match award to someone other than two-goal hero Guimaraes but Emil Krafth pips it, for me.
The Sweden international was an unsung hero for Newcastle on Sunday, made even more impressive by the fact he wasn’t expected to start against Leicester having suffered from illness during the week.
Yet there were no after effects. Krafth was an absolute workhorse down the right-hand side.
There were so many burst forwards, blocks and tackles - the standout one being midway through the second-half when he denied what would have been another goal for Ademola Lookman.
Improving players individually has been pivotal to United’s remarkable turnaround under Howe and Krafth is another perfect example.
There’s no hiding from the fact the 27-year-old has taken a lot of criticism since his £5million move from Amiens in 2019, so to perform how he has recently is a testament to the full-back.
When Kieran Trippier was first ruled out, Javier Manquillo was the obvious choice to deputise. And then, once fit-again, the 31-year-old was expected to walk back into the starting XI and aid United’s fight against relegation.
Not many would have expected Krafth, who has started seven of the last nine games, to grasp his opportunity and essentially take the pressure off how quickly Trippier recovers.
Yes, Trippier is United’s undisputed first choice right-back but when players are performing well, Howe has always shown a reluctance to make changes.
So, could Krafth’s form delay the England international’s return to the starting line-up when he returns in the next few weeks? Certainly, the Magpies head coach has no reason to rush him back now survival is all-but guaranteed.
St James’ Park is becoming a fortress once more
St James’ Park is a very, very special place to be at the moment. Just imagine when the club actually wins a trophy?
Wor Flags are a credit to the club, creating yet another amazing spectacle on Sunday with a tribute to THAT David Kelly’s goal all those years back against Portsmouth.
And clearly, the incredible pre-match atmosphere is having an impact on the players. The 12th man can often be a cliche but in this instance, it runs true 10x over.
Howe’s men are unbeaten at home since losing to top-of-the-table Manchester City in December and have recorded five straight wins on Tyneside.
Expect another incredible atmosphere against Crystal Palace under the lights on Wednesday.
Premier League safety, sealed, signed... soon to be delivered
If they were any doubts that Newcastle still weren’t safe after beating Wolves 1-0, then that was surely erased against Leicester.
Guimaraes’ injury-time winner sent the Magpies 12 points above the relegation zone ahead of the remaining five games. Beat Palace on Wednesday and they’re at the ‘magic’ 40 points total.
We’re all fully aware of the quite extraordinary job Howe has carried out, so you don’t need me to go into much detail right now, but I will throw some numbers at you.
A reminder that no team in Premier League history who has failed to win any of their opening 14 matches have stayed in the division.
On January 15, when Newcastle conceded a late goal to draw with Watford, the club was 19th with just 12 points.
I’m sure there are tons more examples of the wonders Howe has done. It was so hard to envisage Newcastle, now three points off the top 10, being in position only a few months back and that they’ll confirm survival with games to spare.
That’s even though Howe won’t admit it quite yet...
“As for safety? We have work to do,” Howe told reporters after the game. “We have points to get.
“You never know what can happen in football, it is such an unpredictable sport, but we are certainly in a much healthier position.”
Brendan Rodgers makes early move for future Newcastle job?
Again, given the miracle work Howe has done, you won’t find any Newcastle fan demanding a managerial change any time soon.
But if or when that time comes in the future, has Brendan Rodgers already thrown his name into the hat?
Certainly, that was the feeling many Magpies fans got when Rodgers, heavily linked with the job six months ago, spoke glowingly about the club in his post-match press conference.
He said: “I’m so happy for the people here and the supporters.
“You get a great feeling every time you come here. It’s one of the cities and grounds I really enjoy coming to. It’s great for the supporters because the passion here is incredible.
“Eddie’s come in and made a very good start and made some really good signings. I think that gives great hope to the supporters. I’m pretty sure they’ll look to build on that in the summer.
“This is one of the incoming football clubs in Britain. It’s a special place.
“Great atmosphere in the game, we’re just disappointed with the result but we say congratulations to Newcastle.”
For now, Newcastle fans say, ‘we’re grateful for Eddie’.