FOOTBALL’S an unforgiving business. And Alan Pardew’s face told its own story on the touchline at Goodison Park.
He could scarcely believe what was happening in the first half.
Pardew’s expression was a mix of anger, frustration and everything in between.
Disbelief was also etched on the faces of the 1,000 or so away fans in the lower tier of Bullens Road Stand.
“We want our money back,” they chanted after Everton went 3-0 ahead.
They didn’t turn on Pardew, but he is unquestionably under pressure.
A year ago, with the ink still drying on Pardew’s eight-year contract, you could get odds of around 100/1 on him being the next Premier League manager to leave his position.
Not anymore. He’s 7/2 to be the next to go.
Had it not been for Monday night’s second-half fightback against Everton, those odds might be even shorter.
Owner Mike Ashley and director of football Joe Kinnear watched Newcastle’s 3-2 defeat at Goodison Park.
And they won’t have liked the team’s first-half performance any more than the club’s travelling support – or those watching on TV back on Tyneside.
It was dreadful. United were shapeless and listless, disorganised and disjointed.
Everton ran at will at the visiting defence, and should have led by more at the break.
Even captain Fabricio Coloccini, normally such an assured figure at the back, was making mistakes alongside Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who was given a torrid time by Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku.
The team offered nothing going forward. Possession was wasted time and again. Hatem Ben Arfa, such a force in Newcastle’s previous away game at Villa Park, was an anonymous figure on the left.
Ben Arfa and Yanga-Mbiwa, not surprisingly, made way at the break. Yohan Cabaye – who scored the first of the team’s two goals – and Mike Williamson were thrown on.
And things improved in the second half. Tackles and headers were won, passes were completed. The team had an energy and shape about it. It was how it should be away from home.
But the performance still left supporters with more questions than answers.
One of those questions is whether Pardew is the right man to take United forward. Presumably, it’s also a question Ashley will have been asking himself as he watched the first-half performance.
Pardew, rightly, isn’t about to walk away from a club he feels has got under his skin. Pardew needs to find the answers himself, and quickly.
The players also need to take responsibility.
Some of the first-half performances against Everton were unacceptable.
For those supporters demanding Pardew’s immediate sacking, the caveat they must consider is the possibility of Kinnear taking charge on an interim basis. Certainly, his last spell as manager was far from successful.
Pardew is confident of getting the most out of his players given time.
But time is one thing that managers rarely get in the Premier League. He needs results, and he needs a consistency from his players over the coming games.
Next up is a trip to South Wales, another long journey for United’s supporters who got precious little return from their domestic travels last season.
Waiting is a Cardiff City team, managed by Pardew’s close friend Malky Mackay, who are making a decent first of their first top-flight campaign in 51 years.
Newcastle were well beaten at the Cardiff City Stadium last pre-season.
It will be Pardew’s 129th game in charge of United, and few before it will have had so much riding on it.