The FourFourTwo Preview: Man United vs Newcastle
Reds on a roll against Magpies on the slide.
MAN UNITED FORM
- Aston Villa 1-1 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 3-0 Liverpool (Prem)
- So'ton 1-2 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 2-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Man Utd 3-0 Stoke (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-1 S'land (Prem)
- Spurs 4-0 Newcastle (LC)
- Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle (Prem)
- Newcastle 2-1 Chelsea (Prem)
- Burnley 1-1 Newcastle (Prem)
After winning November’s Manager of the Month Award, the winter of Alan Pardew’s discontent has really kicked in during the past two weeks, defeats to Arsenal and Sunderland seemingly – and staggeringly – putting the Magpies manager under pressure again (from the fans, at least) despite sitting in the relative comfort of ninth in the table.
Not, then, the ideal time to visit Old Trafford, with Manchester United unbeaten in the Premier League since the derby against City in early November. Yet during their ascent to third place, Louis van Gaal’s team have rarely convinced – which is either worrying for them or ominous for the rest of the league.
Newcastle can take heart from a decent second-half performance in the Tyne-Wear derby, despite conceding a late winner, and in knowing that they can win at Old Trafford – even if last season’s smash-and-grab came courtesy of Yohan Cabaye, now of PSG, against a David Moyes-led Red Devils completely lacking in ideas.
Injuries and suspensions notwithstanding (see below), there’s also an interesting sub-plot surrounding which players will take the field on Boxing Day. Both of these teams have games two days later and again on New Year’s Day, and while Man United’s squad looks stronger by the week as players return from injury, Newcastle’s always looks a couple of crocks away from a crisis.
With a couple of winnable-looking home matches to come, might Pardew be tempted to incur the wrath of the Toon Army and rest some key players at Old Trafford? It’s not like he has much popularity to lose.
Marcus Rojo, Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini and Luke Shaw could all return from short-term ailments, but Daley Blind will be sidelined until well into the new year. Newcastle have a number of injury concerns, particularly in goal where Pardew has talked up the possibility of making an emergency loan signing, while Cheick Tiote is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season against Sunderland. Jonas Gutierrez, Davide Santon and Siem de Jong are all approaching full fitness but none are likely to feature, although Papiss Cisse is pushing for a return to the starting line-up.
Key battle: Michael Carrick vs Moussa Sissoko
Before Carrick made it into the XI, Louis van Gaal's Manchester United had won just 3 of 11 games. Since, they've won 6 out of 7. Recently in that run the Dutchman has used Carrick in defence, but the Wallsend boy should be back in the middle against his childhood favourites.
Home fans will hope he can continue his calmly efficient distribution to the matchwinners in front of him, exemplified against Hull with 108 completed passes from 117.
Sissoko, who this week told L'Equipe that he loves Arsenal (but of course is happy at Newcastle "until the end of the season"), is another adaptable midfielder: capable of holding, going box-to-box or sitting behind the striker, as Pardew has frequently deployed him.
In the 2-1 win over Chelsea this month, the Frenchman was the Toon's top passer overall (32 of 42 completed) and in the final third (an impressive 14 of 17 successful), also contributing 7 ball recoveries and creating that vital second goal.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- N'castle 0-4 United (PL, Apr 14)
- United 0-1 N'castle (PL, Dec 13)
- United 4-3 N'castle (PL, Dec 12)
- N'castle 0-3 United (PL, Oct 12)
- United 2-1 N'castle (LC, Sep 12)
This is the first time Van Gaal and Pardew have faced each other in a competitive fixture, but the two have much in common, according to Newcastle’s Daryl Janmaat, who worked under the Dutchman for the national team. “I see the similarities between them,” said the right-back earlier in the season, citing their shared belief in sticking to their tactical guns no matter what others are saying. Indeed, both have battled through poor runs of form to have their teams higher in the table than most expected. The Christmas period could go a long way to revealing how far they have really come this season.
Facts and figures
- Man United have lost just 1 of 20 Premier League games they have played on Boxing Day (W17 D2 L1).
- Man United have won 49 league games on December 26; no side in English league history has reached 50.
- Robin van Persie has scored 6 goals and assisted 3 more in his last 8 Premier League starts against Newcastle.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Pressure to pile on Pards. 3-1.