Manchester United host Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday and Jose Mourinho would hope his players are upto the task after the international break.
International breaks often disrupt the momentum a league club is carrying. For Manchester United though, it could be a boon, especially with the string of results leading into the break. With the players fresh off from international duty, coupled with a few boosts with injuries, United would be looking to start afresh after their minor hiccups.
For Newcastle, the break could not have come at a better time. Rafa Benitez’s magic is starting to work in the Premier League again as with limited resources in the summer transfer window, the manager seems to have still built a squad and a system capable of holding their own in the English top flight.
There have been talks of a takeover in progress at the club and along with their two consecutive defeats, the break should have erased it off their minds and Benitez would hope his players can go in at Old Trafford with a focused and clear mind.
Ahead of the big managerial battle between Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez, we take a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are both expected to make the bench while there is optimism surrounding the former’s ability to participate on Saturday. Marcos Rojo’s return from his horrific injury will also provide a much-needed boost to the club, especially with Phil Jones receiving a knock during the international break.
Victor Lindelof played a starring role for Sweden in the international break as the nation managed to hold Italy to no goals in 180 minutes of football and could be thrust into action against Newcastle, depending on the options available to Mourinho, who is likely to prefer a fit Chris Smalling over Lindelof, with the Swede yet to establish himself as a regular at Old Trafford.
Much has been made of Romelu Lukaku’s goal drought. The Belgian became his nation’s highest goalscorer and would hope to carry his form from the international break to the club level as well. Another talked about topic has been Mourinho’s tactical playing style in recent matches.
United fans would hope Mourinho unleashes his players on Saturday and allow them to be more creative. However, the Portuguese will demand his usual system to be in place while attempting to break down the opposition’s defence.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Herrera, Matic; Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford; Lukaku
The Magpies will be without Jamaal Lascelles, who has been one of the standout performers for Benitez & co. this season. Florian Lejuene though, has been up to the task in recent games and the player would hope to establish himself at his new club with continuity in his level of displays at the back.
Christian Atsu’s absence will be offset by the inclusion of Jacob Murphy, who will be eager to showcase his talent in a rare start. The attack is ably assisted by the work-rate of Matt Ritchie on the other wing. But, all eyes will be on Ayoze Perez, who has been turning heads with his displays for the Magpies for over 2 years now.
Rafa Benitez knows how to tackle a Manchester United side at Old Trafford and the manager is likely to deploy his side to play on the counter, something which could be effective, if the United defence suffers lapses as has been seen in a few matches this season.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Elliot; Yedlin, Clark, Lejuene, Manquillo; Hayden, Shelvey; Ritchie, Perez, Murphy; Joselu
1. Over 2.5 Match Goals @1.80
2. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @1.66
1. Manchester United 4-0 Newcastle – Correct Score @13.00
1. Look Away – Newcastle have won just once in their last 16 Premier League away games.
2. Go Going Stopped! – Manchester United have kept a clean sheet in each of their last six home games in the league and are undefeated in their last 22 league fixtures at home.
3. There’s Always a First! – If Newcastle manage a win on Saturday, Rafa Benitez will become the first manager to defeat Manchester United at Old Trafford with three different clubs, having already emerged victorious while being in charge of Liverpool and Chelsea.
4. Newcastle have lost 84 games in all competitions to Manchester United, the most defeats to a single club in their history.
5. Newcastle have won just once in 32 league matches at Old Trafford, the result coming courtesy of a Yohann Cabaye goal in a 1-0 win in 2013.
Player To Watch
A very generic choice, but the Belgian has a lot riding on this game. The international break provided some solace, but his inability to fire his side to a win against Chelsea – a game in which Alvaro Morata, reportedly United’s first priority in the summer scored the winner for the Blues – ruffled a few feathers amidst the United fanbase.
Lukaku has been in a drought recently and the goals during the international break should provide some form and confidence to the Belgian, who will hope to make the best of the Saturday fixture, especially with Zlatan Ibrahimovic nearing full fitness soon.
Manchester United 4-0 Newcastle United
Okay! This may sound far-fetched. But, the international break should work as a reset for Manchester United. Having most of their stars back to full fitness or close, Jose Mourinho will make sure his side does not slip any further away from Manchester City.
Romelu Lukaku should score on Saturday to end his drought at the club level while also shutting down the critics. The defence could leak in a goal or two. But, David De Gea, who uncharacteristically conceded three in a single game for Spain during the break, would be eager to showcase his ability.