Manchester United welcome Newcastle United at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday evening. Fresh from their 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will now be seeking to improve their position in the league after they saw Manchester City go ten points clear at the top of the league on Wednesday evening. United will have a big job on their hands to try and overcome that deficit at this stage of the season, especially after they topped the league only a few weeks ago. However, a series of poor results against Sheffield United (L), Arsenal (D), Everton (D) and West Bromwich Albion (D) saw United surrender their lead at the top of the table.
After United’s victory over Real Sociedad on Thursday evening, former Manchester United midfielder and BT Sport pundit Owen Hargreaves spoke about a conversation he had with Solskjaer in which the United manager supposedly stated that he was not happy with second place in the league as United should be winning trophies. This suggests that what Solskjaer says to the media and what he says to friends and former colleagues is very much different. If you think about it, if Solskjaer stated that he wanted United to win trophies to the media, they would create a seemingly negative storm to berate him endlessly as they know that so-called supporters of the club that want him sacked will create more additions to the story – negativity against United sells.
How United have faired against Newcastle United in the Premier League.
United and the Magpies have met 51 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 30 times, drawing 14 times with the Magpies winning seven times. United have scored 105 goals against the Magpies, conceding 52 goals. United were awarded two penalties, scoring one with the Magpies awarded three and scoring all of them. United have kept 19 clean sheets with the Magpies keeping 11. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 85 yellow cards and three red cards with the Magpies being shown 83 yellow cards and three red cards. After the 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion last weekend, United will be seeking to get back to winning ways and to try and bring down the ten-point deficit between them and Manchester City.
Earlier this season, United beat the Magpies 4-1 at St James’ Park in Newcastle. Luke Shaw scored an own goal in the second minute of the match which resulted inn United having to come back from behind. Harry Maguire found the equaliser in the 23rd minute, assisted by Juan Mata. Bruno Fernandes put United ahead in the 86th minute with Aaron Wan-Bissaka doubling United’s lead in the 90th minute – both goals assisted by Marcus Rashford. Rashford then scored six minutes into added time to seal the victory, assisted by Fernandes. At Old Trafford last season, it was another 4-1 victory for United with goals scored by Matty Longstaff in the 17th minute, then Anthony Martial scored a brace with Mason Greenwood and Rashford also scoring.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Newcastle United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has eight clean sheets for United this season in the Premier League, six short of the Ederson (14) of Manchester City, which shows he is competing but could do with a bit more effort in his area. Recently, De Gea has been unpicked by Everton and West Bromwich Albion and he needs to find a way to become the player he was during Sir Alex Ferguson’s time and after that where he won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times, three times consecutively. Dean Henderson kept his event clean sheet in 12 appearances in all competitions on Thursday evening and he is aiming to establish himself as the main goalkeeper at the club. De Gea needs to find good form and turn it into great form as sooner of later, he will lose his place.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence have been working well in recent weeks despite conceding three times against Everton and that goal against West Bromwich Albion last weekend. On Thursday, the back four of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles kept a clean sheet with United winning 4-0. Against the Magpies, both Wan-Bissaka and Maguire should keep their places with Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw being restored to the starting XI. The fullback pairing of Wan-Bissaka and Shaw has worked well recently with both players performing well, both in attack and in defence. Maguire is unlikely to be benched, being the captain and showing his ability in different areas. Lindelof should be brought in to give Bailly a rest, keeping him ready for Thursday.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred
Scott McTominay came off on the hour mark on Thursday with a problem and he will be subject to a late fitness test to see if he can feature against the Magpies. Donn van de Beek also missed the 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad through a muscular problem, which he might not recover from in time for Sunday’s match. If McTominay does not start, Nemanja Matic probably will, with Paul Pogba also being on the sidelines with a thigh injury. Fred has played well recently – he has the energy to keep running, can man-mark the opposition and help get the ball forwards. He does not score that many goals and should not be judged for that as that is not really his role. McTominay and Fred in the pivot is a good mix, providing they are both fit and ready to play.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
The majority of United’s goals this season have come from players who regularly play in these three positions. Bruno Fernandes scored his 21st goal for the club on Thursday evening, assisting a further 12 so far this season. Marcus Rashford scored his 17th goal against Real Sociedad, also assisting 11 more this season and Mason Greenwood, who did not find the back of the net this week, has scored four goals this season, with a further five assists. This works out to 42 goals and 28 goals – a total of 70 goal contributions from this trio. Daniel James scored against Real Sociedad, twice, but one was offside, so if Rashford needs a rest, he could possible start on the left ahead of him. This seems to be the best area to score and provide goals this season.
Forwards: Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani missed out on the Real Sociedad victory in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening through a muscular problem. At this moment in time, he has a 50% chance of featuring for United on Sunday. Solskjaer suggested that one or two of the players that are doubts could come through their problems and feature for United. Cavani should be ready to play, hopefully, as he is currently the best forward at the club, scoring seven goals and two assists for the club this season. Anthony Martial came off the bench on Thursday and did not really put himself into the game, despite United leading at the time. It is a worry that his form is so bad this season and he will need to correct that. Cavani should lead the line for United if he is able to start.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Amad Diallo, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial
Nine substitutes cane be named on the bench in the Premier League with three of those being used. Solskjaer used four of his five substitutions in the Europa League on Thursday so has a few fresh players to call on against the Magpies. Dean Henderson will probably be back on the bench for this game, starting again on Thursday in the Europa League. Eric Bailly, Alex Telles and Brandon Williams could be called upon if needed. In the midfield, Amad Diallo, Daniel James and Nemanja Matic should all be available, if Matic does not start based on the McTominay problem. In attack, Anthony Martial could be called upon, despite his dire form at this stage of the season. At the moment, I can only see him starting if an injury or fitness issue causes it.
Written by John Walker