Newcastle’s previously out-of-favour midfielder Isaac Hayden stepped up and showed that he can be a dependable figure in Rafa Benitez’s midfield in Wednesday night’s 2-0 loss to Manchester United – despite the result, he proved that he has the ability to start more regularly.
The Arsenal academy graduate has only made four starts for the Magpies this season, but has been handed a lifeline as a result of Ki Sung-yeung’s departure to the Asian Cup with South Korea which he really needs to grab with both hands.
Fans of the club from Tyneside have been critical of the Englishman already this season, especially after he received a red card in his first appearance of the season following a summer in which he handed in a transfer request in a bid to move away from the club.
However, his desire to move away for personal reasons isn’t affecting his performances on the pitch, judging by his showing against the Red Devils at least.
The 23-year-old has shown great professionalism despite wanting to leave, and managed to outshine his midfield partner Mohamed Diame against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and make it difficult for the 20-time Premier League champions to continue their free-flowing attacking football.
Hayden thrives in games where his team are up against it. The midfielder made a huge seven tackles against United, more than any of his teammates in black and white managed to make, and four more than his midfield partner Diame accumulated.
The England Under-21 international also completed an impressive 77% of his passes, as well as successfully winning three aerial duels as he helped his side keep United at bay – only a Martin Dubravka error in the 64th minute gave the visitors a sniff, which they took full advantage of.
Whereas Diame failed to make a single interception or clearance, Hayden managed to intercept the ball on two occasions as well as make a vital clearance on one occasion, somewhat putting the Senegalese international to shame.
Should he keep up these kind of performances, Ki will find it difficult to break back into the Newcastle side upon his return from the Asian Cup, whilst the Magpies’ battle for survival will potentially be a lot easier.