Manchester United will face Newcastle United in the Premier League on Boxing Day at Old Trafford. It is the second time, and last time, this season that Amazon Prime will be taking over Premier League matches, streaming them all on their platform in the United Kingdom. United will be looking to bounce back from their 2-0 defeat to Watford at the weekend, which was a new decline this season with improvement necessary in order to end the season in the top half of the table.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to find the tactics to get the better of his opposition. I feel that he needs to learn to set United up against those teams who are going to play behind the ball. It is great going against bigger teams who will attack and playing against that as United, in these games, look like a good footballing team. However, against those who sit back behind the ball, United are dire and always will be unless tactics chance this.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David de Gea needs to keep his place against the Magpies in order to hit back at his critics. He needs to find a way to get back into form and return as the player that helped United during the past six years or so. If he cannot do that, Sergio Romero will be there to step into his boots and do what he does best. De Gea needs to find confidence to keep United heading in the right direction. He’s poor at saving penalties, something a goalkeeper should be much better at and his decision making, especially against Watford, was poor at times. De Gea is the best goalkeeper at the club based on his past performances, but looking at performances, Romero is ahead of him and could well find himself being trusted more if De Gea continues to lack quality in his position.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
The defence needs to up their game at this stage of the season. Conceding goals is always going to happen in football. United have not kept a clean sheet in the league since that victory over Leicester City in September. United have had just eight clean sheets this season, six of those in cup competitions, two in the league. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will keep his place. He might have given away a penalty against Watford but he’s the best right-back at the club. Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will keep their places against the Magpies, but both will need to improve and get the better of their opposition. I would like to see Brandon Williams play in the left-back position. I feel he offers more than Luke Shaw, who seems rusty since his return from injury.
Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay
Fred and Scott McTominay were off the boil against Watford but in recent weeks, with the duo the only available experienced midfielders in the team, they helped to keep United ticking over. Fatigue could have got the better of them at the weekend or it could have been a bad day at the office. Disappointment motivates people and this duo will be ready to hold the Magpies to account and get United back to winning ways as they face a tough Festive period with three matches to be played between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, two of them on the road.
Attacking Midfielders: Daniel James, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford
Having Daniel James and Marcus Rashford in the wide areas in the three behind the striker is the best duo for these positions at the club right now. Rashford has scored 14 goals for the club this season – his best in his career, in the first anyway. James has scored three goals and has five assists this season and will be seeking to get another goal to improve his tally this season. This could come against the Magpies or later in the season but having him in the team is better than not. Paul Pogba playing in the number ten role will be good for United. He’s very creative and should be part of the team, as long as he is willing to put 100% into every performance and help ‘Make United Great Again’.
Striker: Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood should be given an opportunity to lead the line in the Premier League from the start of a match to show what he can do. He is a predator in the box and has a good eye for a goal. When he has played this season, he has rarely let the team down. He has scored seven goals this season with Anthony Martial matching his goals tally. Greenwood has played fewer minutes than Martial giving him a better goal rate based on minutes played. Greenwood is the player that United need to lead the line, at least for this match to see what he can offer when United need to hit back at their opposition. “If they are good enough, they are old enough” is a comment that comes to mind.
Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw; Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial
Substitutes can change the course of the game if they are the right substitute at the right time. Against Watford, Paul Pogba returned to the pitch after a three-month layoff and he was the stand-out performer of that match, despite playing about a third of the length of the match. Sergio Romero will probably keep his place on the bench. Diogo Dalot could return, offering cover for the right-back position and a more advanced position, utilising his pace. I would have Luke Shaw on the bench for this match, keeping him fresh throughout the Festive period. Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Nemanja Matic could be the midfield cover with Anthony Martial the attacking player on the bench – he does not offer as much as he should as the main striker right now.