Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe has claimed that his team’s ‘game management stuff’ has been ‘massively overblown’ after Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag previously dubbed the Magpies a team that ‘try to annoy you’ with canny time-wasting stuff.
Newcastle were embroiled in a relegation scrap, and squandered a sizable 24 points from winning situations last season, but the Magpies have evolved into a more streetwise side this season, which has paid dividends for them as they are fighting at the top-end of the spectrum these days.
The ball has been in play for an average of 51 minutes and 41 seconds in Newcastle’s Premier League games this season, the lowest of any team in the top division.
It was a statistic referenced by ten Hag before last month’s Carabao Cup final.
Ten Hag said: “Yeah. For instance, so if you see from the FA, the referees want to play an effective time.
“They have the lowest in the league and they are quite successful with it. So it’s up to us that we get speed in the game and we are also then dependent on the refereeing as well.”
When asked about those comments for the first time, Howe was clear in his response ahead of these rivals meeting once again at St James’ Park on Sunday.
“It’s part of the game, but not the main part of the game,” the Newcastle manager told reporters.
“The main part of the game is we have to play well. We have to be really good in possession and really good out of possession.
“The game management stuff has been massively overblown towards us in the media. That’s just my opinion.
“First and foremost, we want to be a good football team, but if there are things you can do, as Kieran showed for the penalty, to help your team in certain moments, that are all within the laws of the game, we will try to do it.”
Trippier, as Howe referred to, has been at the core of Newcastle’s transformation from relegation candidates to top-four contenders, and the England international learned a lot about mental tricks during his time at Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone.
When quizzed if the Ten Hag’s claims were mind games being played, Howe responded: “Possibly. I can’t speak for how they are preparing their teams and what they are saying in the media. Certainly I think it has been overblown.”