For the Manchester United fans who have not yet completely erased David Moyes from their collective memory, Newcastle United at home comes with a shiver.
“They are coming to Old Trafford and we are going to make it as hard for them as we possibly can,” Moyes said, in December 2013.
Make it hard. For Newcastle. At Old Trafford.
That, and the fact United lost the game 1-0, came, in part, to symbolise Moyes’ reign as manager. A perceived lack of belief and results that seemed to prove it.
Newcastle were the third team to win at Old Trafford during Moyes’ tenure after Everton and West Bromwich Albion. Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City, Liverpool and Manchester City would all do the same by the time he was sacked.
United under Jose Mourinho do not have the same problem.
Newcastle were beaten at Old Trafford on Saturday in the way they used to be. Comfortably and, despite scoring an early goal, with minimal fuss.
“Lads, it’s Newcastle,” Sir Alex Ferguson might have said.
It extended United’s unbeaten run at home to 38 games in all competitions — matching Ferguson’s best run between December 1998 and April 2000. The club record is 39 games unbeaten between 1964 and 1966.
Mourinho’s team have also won their first nine home games of the season — a post-war club record. Dwight Gayle’s opener for Newcastle was the first league goal United have conceded at home since April.
The belief is back and so are the results.
Of course, it means nothing to Mourinho and he said as much at his prematch news conference on Friday. He is not here to set records, he said, only to win trophies. If one follows the other, then great. But it is only really silverware that interests him.
Mourinho might not want to spend too much time talking about United’s home form, but it is not an accident. His career is built on winning home games. Particularly home games in the league.
Between February 2002 and April 2011, he did not lose one. The run spanned nine years, one month and 10 days, four clubs in four different countries, 150 games, 125 wins and 25 draws.
Since taking over at Porto in 2002, Mourinho has only ever lost nine league games at home — and four of those were during Chelsea’s disastrous run at the beginning of the 2015-16 season.
Barcelona are still the only side to inflict a home defeat on a Mourinho team in the league during a season when they have gone on to win the title.
The team that beat Real Madrid 3-1 at the Bernabeu in December 2011 included Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa and was managed by Pep Guardiola.
It was Guardiola’s Manchester City that last won at Old Trafford more than a year ago.
They will be back on Dec. 10 for a game that could decide whether or not there will be a title race this season.
City have been in blistering form but, at home, Mourinho will fancy his chances.
“After playing so many away games recently, seven of our last 10, it is pleasing that five of our next eight matches will all be at Old Trafford,” he wrote in his programme notes ahead of Newcastle’s visit.
“This is a time when we can build momentum as we work towards our aims, and like I always say, we will always do better when you play with us, so if you get behind the boys, they can make some real progress over the coming weeks.”
Progress for United would be eating into City’s eight-point lead at the top of the table.
It is thanks to their home form that they are still in touch at all after losing two and drawing two of their last five Premier League away games.
Wins over Brighton & Hove Albion, CSKA Moscow and Manchester City in the next month would set a new club mark of 41 consecutive games unbeaten at home. But victory over City would be more significant than the other 40 put together.
The belief, the fear factor — whatever you want to call it — is back for the first time since Ferguson retired.
Meaningful title challenges also disappeared when Sir Alex left. Mourinho will hope that is about to change, too.