St. James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 1945 hours
After two games at home, United hit the road again as they head to St. Jamesai??i?? Park where they take on home side Newcastle United who are fighting a relegation battle.
Team News, Tactics and Predicted Lineup
Former Manchester United assistant coach and current Toons manager Steve McLaren is a troubled man right now. His wards sit in 18th place and are in the middle of a relegation battle in earnest. Having lost the last 4 matches in all competitions with a similar 0-1 scoreline has not helped their cause in any way, nor has it gone down well with the home support who have made their displeasure known through a mixture of booing and boycott. The loss to Watford has only exacerbated an open wound and the Toons would be keen to reverse their fortune when they chase their third Premier League home win on Tuesday. While the United side they face is only a shadow of the sides of yesteryears, they are still Manchester United with a decent shout at a top 4 finish in the league. McLaren has urged the home support to get behind his team but it is to be seen how the 50,000+ home strength respond on Tuesday night.
Newcastle have one of the longest injury lists in the Premier League currently, and that has left them very thinly spread in terms of squad selection. Midfielder Jack Colback is expected to shake off a hamstring problem and return to the field to partially ease their injury worries.
What would be worrisome for Newcastle supporters is the fact that McLaren fielded a nearly first string side against Watford and still lost the game. And it wasnai??i??t a freak goal either. Newcastle were on an even keel with Watford throughout the match and rarely threatened to score. The reverse fixture of Tuesdayai??i??s game was played at Old Trafford in August and ended in a goalless draw. Newcastle didnai??i??t register a single shot on goal in that game and goalkeeper Tim Krul, who has been injured since then, finished the game with 8 saves to his name.
Predicted Lineup (3-5-2): Elliot; Dummett, Coloccini, Mbemba; Mbabu, Wijnaldum, Tiote, Sissoko, Janmaat; Mitrovic, Perez
Louis van Gaalai??i??s wards have won both their games so far this calendar year but the clouds over their heads refuse to part. Against Sheffield United in their FA Cup tie, the Old Trafford outfit produced such a soporific performance that ex-United player turned analyst Paul Scholes went so far as to say a even the players and manager looked boreda . Whether that is due to an overload of football through the festive season or simply the players not being able to play as per Van Gaalai??i??s philosophy and still express themselves is anybodyai??i??s guess. It is however undeniable that while United have consistently held a lionai??i??s share of possession in every game this season, they have been unable to make the possession count. This is largely due to their inability to finish off chances in the final third and that stems from players playing in positions where they are struggling. On Saturday, Mata looked out of place on the right flank, Martial was ineffective on the left flank and Fellaini was lost deep in midfield. Martialai??i??s game did pick up after Depay was introduced in place of Mata and took to the left flank allowing Martial to play more centrally. Similarly Lingard came in for Herrera and provided more bite on the right flank. Pereira made a cameo appearance as well for the last 15 minutes and sent in a bunch of decent crosses that would surely help him occupy mindspace when Louis van Gaal draws up the team sheet for Tuesday.
Van Gaalai??i??s big headache lies in midfield though. Ashley Young and Michael Carrick were rested on Saturday following the busy festive period clearly with the next three Premier league games against Newcastle, Liverpool, and Southampton in mind. They will hopefully be back for the visit to St. Jamesai??i?? Park. Van Gaal has all but confirmed Morgan Schneiderlinai??i??s unavailability for the Newcastle game stating that the player is in the a red zonea and needs to recover from the fatigue caused by the festive season where he featured in every game. Schweinsteiger picked up a heavy knock to his knee in the FA Cup game against Sheffield United and is unlikely to be able to make the trip to Newcastle. Even if it were possible, Louis van Gaal might err on the side of caution and save him for the Liverpool game on Sunday. This may mean that Fellaini would again have to feature in a deeper midfield role, one that he seemed completely ineffective in on Saturday.
Up the field, it may probably be time to bench Mata in favour of starting Lingard or Depay. Mata has gone off the boil for a few matches now and seems to be going through the motions. He is unable to cut in from the right, and a short break and a few games with the reserve side might do him a lot of good. Lingard, Depay and Pereira most definitely deserve at least a place in the matchday squad albeit on the bench, in light of their play against Sheffield and also because United are running a bit thin in midfield right now owing to injuries and fatigue.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Borthwick-Jackson, Blind, Smalling, Young; Carrick, Fellaini; Depay, Rooney, Lingard; Martial
Key Match Facts
- Newcastle have suffered 25 Premier League defeats against Manchester United, their joint-highest tally of losses in the competition alongside those to Arsenal.
- Manchester United have lost one of their past 12 Premier League trips to St James’ Park (W9 D2).
- United have won 12 away matches at Newcastle, second only to their record of 15 triumphs at Everton and Aston Villa.
- Wayne Rooney is aiming to score in consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since November 2014.
- Defeat would mean Manchester United losing three straight away Premier League matches for the first time since January 1996.
Manchester United 2 Newcastle United 0
A weak United side takes on an even weaker Newcastle side. While Unitedai??i??s attack has not been firing at all, their defence has been very solid letting in only one goal in the last 4 games in all competitions. Tiote, Sissoko and Perez have been woeful for Newcastle of late, and it may be too tall an order to expect them to overcome one of the best defences statistically in the Premier League.