Eddie Howe admits Newcastle United need to cut out their individual errors if they are to retain their Premier League status.
However, the manager also believes the Magpies are being hampered by some questionable refereeing decisions, after another close spot-kick call went against them on Tyneside.
Howe’s United were beaten 4-0 at St. James’ Park by Pep Guardiola’s purring City side, who broke a Premier League record while claiming their 34th win of the calendar year.
With the game at 2-0, and United in the ascendency, Ryan Fraser was chopped down in the area by Ederson. Referee Martin Atkinson gave nothing though — and Howe was incensed by the call.
Howe said: “I am not the type of manager who looks for excuses or looks to blame officials, but for me this is another big moment in the game that has gone against us.
“I am shaking my head at it because the keeper is out of control and he has wiped Ryan out. It is a stonewall penalty for me and how VAR hasn’t come to that decision on it is a strange one.”
United have been on the back of some poor calls in recent weeks, with James Maddison’s dive, a refusal to stop play for an Isaac Hayden head injury at Anfield and another tackle on Fraser in the area against Liverpool proving costly.
Despite Howe’s anger, it was all too familiar defensive errors that again left United with a mountain to climb, with a fifth-minute defensive mix-up between Martin Dubravka and Ciaran Clark, leading to Ruben Dias’ opener, the worst of them.
“They are the one team in the world I don’t think you want to be chasing a game against. They are so good with the ball,” said Howe, whose side are 19th in the top-flight table with just one win in the opening 18 games.
“The first goal was a disappointing moment. It is something that we need to address — and we need to look at very quickly.”
He added: “It may sound strange, but for the rest of the first half bar the second goal, which I know you can’t take away, our defensive structures were good. We minimized their threat. In the second half they played very well and showed control in the game. We were trying to get the ball back and they countered us. It was a difficult balance to strike in the second half.”
Eyebrows were raised at Howe’s team selection before kick-off, with wideman Jacob Murphy paired with fellow winger Matt Ritchie in a make-shift back four.
Explaining the decision, Howe said: “(Javier) Manquillo was a very late drop out due to illness — that was a big problem for us. Emil Krafth took his place on the bench but hadn’t trained for a week — again that was with illness.
“Jonjo (Shelvey) has played a lot of football in a short period of time, having missed a long period, and we felt we had to be careful with him. We hope he will be back soon, we don’t think he has got a long-term injury.”
He added: “The players who have played have put in a huge effort in a very intense period and we are counting the cost of that. Tomorrow clubs and top flight chiefs meet to discuss a response to rises in cases of COVID-19 among players and staff in recent weeks.”
The situation saw six of the 10 top flight games postponed this weekend. Howe has revealed that no Newcastle player has returned a positive test in recent rounds of testing, while admitting he is in the dark about what United’s position will be at the meeting on Monday.
“I am led to believe we have no COVID-19 cases. In terms of our stance that’s not something I have been asked to give an opinion on,” said Howe.
“We are being told what to do, following the guidelines and concentrating on the football that is in front of us.”