Eddie Howe has fired back at Erik ten Hag after the Manchester United boss called Newcastle’s ‘game management’ tactics ‘annoying’.
Newcastle host the Red Devils on Sunday in their first match since the international break and one that could be key in the race for the top four.
The Magpies are currently fifth in the table, only three points behind United in third, with Tottenham, Liverpool and Brighton also aiming to finish the Champions League qualification spots.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams this campaign, after October’s draw at Old Trafford and February’s Carabao Cup final which United won 2-0.
Ahead of the final, Ten Hag called out Newcastle’s time-wasting, saying: ‘It is an annoying team to play against so we have to find a way to play against them.
‘They try to annoy you. So we have to make sure we play our game and focus on our game. So it’s up to us that we get speed in the game and we are also then dependent on the refereeing as well.
‘For instance, if you see from the FA, the referees want to play an effective time. They have the lowest in the league [time when the ball is in play] and they are quite successful with it.’
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According to Opta, on average the ball has been in play for only 51 minutes and 41 seconds in Newcastle’s games this season – the lowest in the Premier League – but despite the stats not being in his favour, Howe is adamant it has been blown out of proportion.
‘It’s part of the game, but not the main part of the game,’ the Newcastle head coach said in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
‘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 [Trippier] showed for the penalty [against Nottingham Forest], to help your team in certain moments, that are all within the laws of the game, we will try to do it.’