Newcastle United vs Manchester United
Venue: St. James’ Park
Referee: Craig Pawson
TV: Sky Sports Box Office
Newcastle’s final game before the clocks go back is a home fixture against Manchester United on Saturday evening.
The home side go into the match with much the higher spirits after emphatically beating Burnley 3-1 before the international break. In classic Newcastle fashion, the performances have not been 100% convincing but the final results have left them in the top half of the table and in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup. The key now is to keep the logs burning and play to win against a glum Manchester United.
Newcastle’s performances are often reflected by the individual efforts of Allan Saint-Maximin, who was the standout performer in their most recent victory two weeks ago. Burnley were unsuccessful in roughing up the Frenchman enough to prevent a goal and an assist, but he was forced to limp off towards the end of the match. Saint-Maximin will want to maintain his own momentum so will have worked hard on the injury issue over the international break.
With the transfer window now closed, Newcastle can reflect on a number of already successful new signings. Callum Wilson in particular has established himself with four league goals following his transfer from Bournemouth. Jeff Hendrick and Jamal Lewis perhaps need some more time to adapt to the squad but have shown glimmers of promise thus far.
Manchester United’s last fixture was pretty shocking by all accounts – a 6-1 defeat at the hands of former manager José Mourinho’s Tottenham. It did not help Solskjaer that his team were down to ten men within 30 minutes, but the performance of every player in Red diminished to shambles from that point onwards. The defence was strikingly bad, hence Spurs’ goal fest, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka the only player in the back four making a tackle all game.
It may be worth speculating on the mentality behind the scenes at Old Trafford. The reaction of Anthony Martial to Lamela’s antics earned him the red card and probably worked just as Mourinho’s planned. A lot of emphasis is being placed on the notion that Lamela should have been sent off as well, but the overall performance has to be the absolute priority for the players and managers going forward.
The only glimpse of new talent at United is in the form of Donny van de Beek, who hasn’t particularly given fans anything to jump up and down about, despite scoring on his debut. Alex Telles has been brought into the club just before the deadline, and the Brazilian looks to be an impressive left-back, arriving from Porto. Given the blatant mediocrity of the United defence, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Telles get straight into the starting eleven.
The Newcastle squad is so full of slight doubts that it’s hard to know who Steve Bruce will put out onto the field on Saturday. Jamaal Lascelles suffered a hamstring injury prior to the Burnley match, while the aforementioned Saint-Maximin is a doubt after limping off in that game. DeAndre Yedlin, Ciaran Clarke and Paul Dummett have been out since September but may now be available for a feature. Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka will be unavailable due to a heel injury picked up on international duty, while Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gale and Matty Longstaff continue to recover from their long-term injury problems.
Somewhat depressingly for United fans, the eleven players that were thrashed by Tottenham is arguably Solskjaer’s preferred starting lineup, which doesn’t bode well going forward. Injuries in the squad are exclusive to those further down the pecking order such as Phil Jones.
The striking position must now be filled temporarily, with Martial beginning his three-game ban. New signing Edison Cavani is self-isolating so won’t be available. The option is to either shift Rashford or Greenwood forward or bring in Odion Ighalo.
Predicted Starting XIs
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Darlow; Lewis, Fernandez, Lascelles, Manquillo; Hayden, Shelvey; Joelinto, Saint-Maximin, Hendrick; Wilson
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Telles, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Matic, Pogba; James, Fernandes, Greenwood; Rashford
Score Prediction: Newcastle United 2-2 Manchester United
Manchester United have had two weeks to pick up the pieces from their shambolic previous performance, while Newcastle will be building on their encouraging display last time out. The result could go either way as a consequence and both teams should fancy their chances to pick up some points.