Manchester United vs Newcastle United
K/O: 17:30 hours
Venue: Old Trafford
TV: BT Sport 1
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Manchester United play host to Newcastle United on Saturday evening with the future of both managers the focus of this fixture due to poor starts to the season.
After a midweek draw to Valencia in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho has confronted intense scrutiny during the build-up to Rafa Benitez’s visit to Old Trafford. If rumours are to be believed, another underwhelming performance from the home side could cost the Portuguese tactician his position as Manchester United manager.
However, a convincing display that secures victory would, at least temporarily, silence Mourinho’s doubters. As well as this, a large margin of victory could see the Red Devils ascend the table to a considerably more respectable sixth place. Even at this early stage of the campaign, its critical for the stability of Manchester United’s season that they attack the away side with intent and aren’t condemned to further scrupulous interrogation.
Unfortunately for United, due to their current predicament, a draw would be almost as unwelcome as a loss. Failure to finish with three points could see them lose further ground on their Champions League rivals and even move into the bottom half of the table below Everton. It’s difficult to foresee any positivity being extracted from an even result against one of the leagues struggling sides.
Becoming the first side to lose to Newcastle this season would raise serious question marks over Jose Mourinho’s future; although United have shown in the past they prefer to change manager at the end of the season, continually poor results would leave the managerial position utterly untenable due to the media frenzy that currently surrounds the club’s every move.
Prowling the adjacent technical area at Old Trafford this Saturday will be an equally anxious Rafa Benitez. The Magpies have suffered at the hands of a very demanding early season fixture schedule, and there will be no let up this weekend due to the magnitude of this result for both teams. The away side currently reside in the relegation zone, already three points adrift of safety. Due to the current state of affairs in the red half of Manchester, Saturday presents an excellent opportunity for an upset to steal three points back to Tyneside and re-join the rest of the field.
Equally leaving Old Trafford with a point will be perceived as a coup based upon Newcastle’s stuttering start. Any positives that could be taken from the fixture Benitez will attempt to use as a platform upon which to build some form.
Failure to contest against the most under pressure team in the league wouldn’t cover The Magpies in glory. Manchester United are currently perceived as being vulnerable; failing to take advantage would only further expose Newcastle’s lack of instinct for victory, which has been glaringly obvious of late.
Providing further headaches for Mourinho will be the prospected continued absence of Ander Herrera. As well as this both Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young may also be unavailable for the tie as they remain slight injury doubts. Marcos Rojo will undoubtedly remain side-lined however.
Another issue plaguing United’s manager is the continued assessment of his supposedly increasingly strained relationship with Paul Pogba. The Frenchman was substituted after a lacklustre display against West Ham United last weekend and has regularly been singled out for criticism. Based on the climate that currently surrounds the midfielder it’s harsh to suggest he’s been significantly weaker than his teammates, in fact on occasions earlier in the season he showed glimpses of his usual talismanic self. Hopefully, he will return to his ruggedly aesthetic best come Saturday evening, as his languid style is a pleasure to watch when operating effectively.
Conversely, Newcastle were dreadfully laborious throughout the entirety of last weekend’s fixture against Leicester, rarely creating any opportunities to excite their onlooking fans. Joselu’s inclusion from the start was supposed to improve their attacking threat; however, there was little evidence to suggest this change was effective. Benitez will likely stick with his Spanish counterpart once more this weekend though.
Joselu’s continued selection is due to Salomon Rondon remaining injured, along with Florian Lejune. Elsewhere Paul Dummett and Federico Fernandez are highly doubtful of returning to the starting line-up.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Fred, Fellaini, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Sanchez
Newcastle United: Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Kenedy; Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame, Atsu; Perez; Joselu
Predicted Score: Manchester United 1 Newcastle United 0
Newcastle’s first win of the season likely won’t come from this game, and the hunt will continue to next weekend. Mourinho in typical fashion will probably get the result he so desperately needs without a performance that relieves the fanfare.