Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle
Sunday, October 7, 15:00 GMT
Manchester United travel to Tyneside to face a resilient Newcastle side searching for some consistency and magic of the season gone by. Games between the two Uniteds – Newcastle and Manchester, have for decades captured the imagination of the football fans around the globe. From the days of Kevin Keegan to Sir Bobby Robson and now with Alan Pardew in charge, the Magpies have always proved to be tough adversaries to Sir Alex Ferguson and the trend could continue, especially with the game being held at the Sports direct Arena. The ‘Toon Army’ will be in full voice and the visitors are sure to face a baptism of fire in one of the most intimidating arenas in contemporary football.
Newcastle have had a rather shaky start to their campaign and have produced some uninspiring football. But the results aren’t as poor as Newcastle’s performances with two away draws and a home win in their last three league encounters. However, the next two games could prove pivotal for the Magpies’ season – Manchester United at home followed by the big derby away to the Stadium of Light. Injuries have cleared up for Pardew and the manager could possibly line up his first choice eleven this weekend and that should lift the place and reinvigorate the club.
Red Devils, on the other hand, have endured a rather strange start to their campaign. Fergie’s United have been well below par and had to rely on their famous comebacks and their fighting spirit to bring them back from the brink on more than the odd occasion. However, even that wasn’t enough last weekend against Spurs as Man United stumbled to their second defeat of the season. There are problems a plenty for Sir Alex with a majority of defense still out injured and players badly out of form. Furthermore, the midfield has been a cause for concern for over a couple of seasons and this campaign too failed to grab games by the scruff of the neck. There is good news though with the Rooney-RVP combo showing signs of gelling in the midweek Champions league game against Cluj and that should provide more than a sigh of relief for the manager and the fans alike.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Alan Pardew has some injury problems of his own going into the game. Steven Taylor, who was substituted last weekend against Reading, is facing a late fitness test while Ryan Taylor and Fabio Coloccini are certainly missing with the former being ruled out until next year. Ace keeper Tim Krul is also missing with an elbow injury and is not likely to feature until after the international break. However, there is good news for the manager that Danny Simpson successfully returned in midweek after recovering from a hamstring injury and is available for selection, thereby reducing the defensive problems for the manager.
Steve Harper will deputize for Tim Krul in goal and will have to be on top of his game against the attacking threat possessed by Manchester United. He will also need ample support from his defense as well which will, once again, be reshuffled owing to the injury problems for the manager. With Steven Taylor likely to miss out, James Perch will hold fort in central defense alongside Mike Williamson. Danny Simpson, will start at right-back against his former club and will be hoping to repeat his heroics against them from last season when he made two spectacular goal-line clearances against the Red Devils, one in each game. David Santone, who ha been brilliant for the Magpies this season both defensively and offensively, will be at left-back as usual.
Up-front, it will be the usual threatening combo of Pappis Cisse and Demba Ba with both strikers relishing the chance to go up against a shaky looking United defence. Ba has already shown his caliber against Fergie’s men last season and with Cisse now alongside him, he will be doubly dangerous to deal with. Lots of diagonal aerial balls are expected to be played by the home side towards the two strikers as both men will be looking to set up each other to have a crack at United’s goal.
When these two teams played here last season, the midfield was dominated by the home side as Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote ran the Red Devils ragged. Both players are expected to start this game as well and Pardew will be hoping for a repeat performance from his star central midfielders. Once more, both men have been linked with Manchester United at some time or the other and this will be a perfect time for them to show Ferguson what he has been missing in the middle of the pitch. Gutierrez will be playing on the left wing, while Hatem Ben Arfa will be given the freedom to have a crack at compatriot Patrice Evra. While Tiote will be sitting in front of the back four, Cabaye will be dictating his team’s ttacking play by spreading the ball to the wingers and the forwards as early as possible to take advantage of United’s slow defense which was exposed at the hands of Spurs in the last game.
Probable Starting Line up ( 4-2-1-3): Harper; Simpson, Williamson, Perch, Santone; Ben Arfa, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Cisse, Ba
Sir Alex, thankfully for his team, has no new injury worries to deal with after their Champions League clash against Cluj in midweek. Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, both of whom missed the game due to a virus infection, are fit and available for selection. Also available is Paul Scholes who was rested after his masterclass performance in the defeat against Tottenham. Another good news for the manager is that Jonny Evans is fit for the clash having been substituted in the last game with a dead leg. Chris Smalling is also nearing full fitness, but this game comes too soon for him to return to the squad. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are also scheduled to make their return after the international break while Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic will not be back before November.
The only positive for the manager with the injury worries surrounding him is that it has eased off his selection headache. Once again, the only available back-four will be deployed despite their sluggish performances in the last few games. Ferdinand and Evans will start in central defense with Scott Wooton sitting on the bench as their back-up. Both defenders, especially Ferdinand, were found wanting by the Spurs attackers and with Newcastle possessing an equivalent threat, they have to be on top of their game to deny the Magpies from finding the back of the net. Patrice Evra will be the left-back while Rafael, who has been the best United defender so far this season, will start as the right sided defender. With Ba and Cisse playing up front for the home team, United defenders will be needed to be a lot more sharp and physical than they have been so far this season.
In midfield, the manager has used a diamond formation in two of the last three games including against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup match at Old Trafford last Wednesday. Although, the move has been derived due to injuries to the wingers more than anything else, it has given some food for though for the manager. It has helped United keep the ball a lot more than they have been doing lately and more importantly they haven’t been overrun in the midfield. However, it has taken away United’s threat from the wings, but with the talent available in other areas of the pitch, chances are bound to be created.
Therefore, it won’t be surprising if the Scot goes for the same formation once again. Carrick will be at the base of the diamond, sweeping things in front of the back four while Kagawa will be at the top of it linking the play between the strikers and the midfielders. The manager has an abundance in choices for the positions in central midfield with two of Scholes, Fletcher, Anderson, Cleverley and Giggs likely to fill in those slots. The formation gives the manager flexibility as well as he can switch to a regulation four man midfield with Kagawa shifting to the left wing and Nani being brought on for one of the midfielders.
Up-front, it is going to be the lethal combo of Rooney and Robin van Persie who did brilliantly against Cluj in midweek. While RvP scored both United’s goals, it was Rooney who was the provider on both occasions. Sir Alex will be pleased with the telepathic understanding shown by the two highly talented strikers and he will be hoping to play both men together as often as possible. The other good thing about the partnership is its flexible nature with both players equally potent in leading the line as well as dropping in the hole to play off the strike partner.
Probable Starting Line up (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Carrick; Anderson, Cleverley; Kagawa; Rooney, Van Persie
- Newcastle United have won just one of their last ten meetings against the Red Devils (3-0 win in January earlier this year)
- Demba Ba leads the goal-scoring charts this season with six goals.
- Manchester United have conceded first in five of the their six league games with the exception being the match against Wigan where they kept a clean sheet.
- Rvp has scored seven goals in seven games for his team this season in all competitions.
Player To Watch Out For
Demba Ba (Newcastle United)
The Senegalese has started the season in the same vein as he did in the last campaign, scoring goals for fun. With his form deteriorating in the latter half of last season, many were ready to write him off as a half-season wonder. However, the striker has bounced back with a vigor and proved all doubters wrong by scoring six goals so far in the league. His link up play with his strike partners (Ameobi or Cisse) has also been of the top drawer and this is what will be used by the manager as the most potent threat against the visitors. The former West Ham man will be playing on the shoulders of Ferdinand and Evans, using his strength to cause them problems as he did in the last meeting between these two teams last season. Fergie has to find a way of stopping him or else it might very well be back to back defeats for his team.
Newcastle United 2-1 Manchester United
The home side will be up for it from the start of the game backed by their brilliant home support. Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa will pose problems a plenty for Man United’s shaky defense with Yohan Cabaye pulling the strings from central midfield. The Red Devils too, with all their attacking prowess, will cause troubles for the Magpies’ defenders, but in the end, the home side will come up trumps in what is expected to be a cracking game of football.