Steve Bruce is ready to go back to basics in an attempt to get the best out of the Newcastle squad he inherited from Rafael Benitez.
The 58-year-old signalled his intention to play a more expansive game after replacing the Spaniard, who adopted a pragmatic approach as he attempted to make the most of the strengths of a playing staff he constantly wanted to strengthen.
However, last weekend’s 5-0 drubbing at Leicester, as well as a dreadful display in the 0-0 home draw with Brighton which preceded it, persuaded Bruce that he may have to be less adventurous as his former club Manchester United come calling on Sunday.
He said: “Looking at the way the team is happiest, you’d say we’ll play with five at the back, with two number 10s and we’ll sit deep and play on the counter-attack, which is exactly what we did when we played against Tottenham.
“We changed for that game, and we changed because that is the way they had played for six months at the back end of last season, when results were better.
“The two or three times I’ve tried to change us, including Brighton at home and Norwich, where we started with a 5-3-2 and played three in the middle of the park, it didn’t really work.
“I quickly worked out at Norwich that we didn’t have the players with the capability to play the way I’d envisaged.”
The Magpies’ capitulation at the King Power Stadium set alarm bells ringing just eight games into Bruce’s reign, and a return of one win – albeit at Tottenham – in the first seven Premier League outings has left them sitting inside the bottom three, territory which has become far too familiar in recent years.
Newcastle fell apart after Isaac Hayden’s first-half dismissal but, asked if his players are behind him, the head coach said: “Well, look, I don’t think it’s in dispute that they are with me.
“I have not witnessed anything like that. However, sometimes you play very very badly, and last week was not acceptable.
“Enough has been said on that one, and the only thing you can try now is to have a response after a horror show like it is.
“And let’s be fair, if you are going to play football, then unfortunately horror shows do rear their head. Let’s hope it’s out of the road.”
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