Newcastle United vs Manchester United Preview

Newcastle United vs Manchester United Preview
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Happy New Year everyone and with the new year, hopefully better fortunes favour United than the start of the season which has hampered not only their title challenge but now has put their aspirations of top four in doubt. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appointed as the manager of the Red Devils at least until the end of the season, United look revitalised and dangerous after three wins on the bounce against Cardiff (5-1), Huddersfield (3-1) and Bournemouth (4-1) and are looking to continue their good form with a win at St James' Park tomorrow. Rafa Benitez claimed that it would be a miracle if his side managed to remain in the Premier League and tried to play down the chances of the Magpies finishing in the top half of the league as they did last season but gained a creditable draw at Vicarage Road as Salomon Rondon's opener was cancelled out late by an Abdoulaye Doucoure header in the 82nd minute. 

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Manchester United will be without Eric Bailly after his red card against Bournemouth and so Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones will probably start at St James' Park. Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo are getting closer to returns but if a new centre back is signed, they may not have to. Young and Shaw are likely starters and may allow Darmian and Dalot to play against Reading on Saturday in the FA Cup. Pogba and Matic are guaranteed starters and have significantly improved under Solskjaer and I think Ander Herrera's energy and composure will be vital for breaking down the stubborn Newcastle defence. Again I think an unchanged front three is the right decision as, although Lukaku scored, Rashford, Lingard and Martial have been excellent and a fluid front three, like Liverpool have, seems to work better for United as well. Alexis Sanchez might be ready for the bench and could return to his best under Solskjaer but only time will tell. Newcastle may have some defensive woes of their own with both Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clarke being assessed for the game after the former was brought off against Watford and could mean a return for Fabian Char. Ki Sung-Yeung is also unavailable as he is at the Asian Cup and there might be a return for Jonjo Shelvey in midfield. 

Manchester United have already played three teams all in the bottom half of the table under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and come out as victors each time but Newcastle will be the biggest danger for the Norwegian manager as, even when Newcastle are not playing well, they are a good side with hard-working players. Andre Yedlin's pace will be a worry for Luke Shaw as Anthony Martial might not always track back fully and Matt Ritchie could pose dangers in wide areas, delivering good crosses to the ferocious Salomon Rondon who will probably back himself against either Phil Jones or Victor Lindelof who are the likely contenders for the centre-back pairing tomorrow. Last time at St James' Park, Manchester United lost 1-0 to a Matt Ritchie strike that made it a second away defeat in a row for Jose Mourinho's side after a poor 2-0 loss at Wembley to Spurs on Alexis Sanchez's Premier League debut for United (that has unfortunately summed up his United career so far). In fact, United have not won at St James' Park since Ashley Young scored a 90th minute winner in 2015. It will be interesting to see whether Newcastle sit back and hit United on the counter or target United's weak defence. It could be a game in which the only question is how many United will score or if Newcastle can hold on. It all depends on who's sharper and hungrier than the other. 

Predicted Lineup: De Gea, Young (c), Lindelof, Jones, Shaw, Matic, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard, Martial, Rashford



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