Manchester United will return to action after a two-week hiatus due to a Covid-19 outbreak when they travel to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle United.

Just when it looked like Manchester United were getting their campaign back on track under interim manager Ralf Rangnick, their season was disrupted by a coronavirus outbreak within the squad, leading to the postponement of their fixtures against Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion. 

After a 16-day break, the Red Devils will now resume their campaign on Monday night when they face off against relegation battlers Newcastle United away from home. Before the pause, Manchester United had put together a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions, winning two of their three games under Rangnick, beating Norwich City 1-0 in their latest encounter.

As things stand, Manchester United are sixth in the table, five points off of Arsenal in fourth place, but have two games in hand to make up ground in the coming weeks. On Monday, they will be up against a Newcastle United side who find themselves in all sorts of troubles close to the midpoint of the 2021/22 Premier League season.

The Magpies have won just one of their 18 matches in the competition so far, conceding the most number of goals (41). Eddie Howe’s men are rooted to the 19th spot in the table, three points below Watford in 17th, who happen to have a couple of games in hand. Newcastle have suffered heavy defeats in their last three matches, losing to Leicester City (4-0), Liverpool (3-1) and Manchester City (4-0).

The Tynesiders will need to find a way to arrest this downslide at the earliest if they are to have any hopes of survival. However, it will be easier said than done against a Manchester United side filled with top-quality players.

The reverse fixture at Old Trafford ended in a 4-1 win for the Red Devils, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a brace on his second debut for the club, while Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard also found the back of the net. Ahead of their latest meeting on Monday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Newcastle United

Newcastle United will be without Isaac Hayden, who is suspended for the match due to an accumulation of cards. Jamal Lewis, Federico Fernandez and Paul Dummett are all ruled out with injuries, while key midfielder Jonjo Shelvey also remains a doubt. Emil Krafth and Javi Manquillo are back in contention after recovering from their illness.

While there have been some improvements under Eddie Howe, Newcastle have continued to be leaky at the back, and unless that changes, things are unlikely to get better for them. So, the onus will be on captain Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar to keep things tight and shield Martin Dubravka in goal, with support from the full-backs in Manquillo and Matt Ritchie.

Shelvey is expected to recover in time to start against Manchester United and will have a pivotal role to play in the middle of the park. He is likely to be partnered with Sean Longstaff, who will be tasked with keeping a lid on Bruno Fernandes’ output. Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin will take up the wide roles in midfield and look to make runs in behind the attack-minded Manchester United full-backs.

Callum Wilson will be the main man upfront for Newcastle United and will have support from Joelinton, who will drop into the midfield when the opponents are in possession, essentially forming a 4-5-1 without the ball. Joe Willock will be an option for Howe from the bench if he seeks to add more attacking impetus from the middle of the park.

Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Dubravka; Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Ritchie; Almiron, Shelvey, Longstaff, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin; Wilson

Manchester United

Manchester United have a near clean bill of health after having had multiple coronavirus cases within the squad. Paul Pogba remains the only injury-enforced absentee for the 20-time English champions, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Anthony Martial, Raphael Varane and Edinson Cavani recovering from their issues.

The Red Devils will again line up in a 4-2-2-2 formation under Ralf Rangnick, who has had the better part of the week to sort things out in training, which could reflect in the performance on Monday. David de Gea is back to his best and should continue between the sticks while Victor Lindelof, having recovered from his breathing issue, will partner Harry Maguire at the heart of the United defence.

Despite Wan-Bissaka’s return to full fitness, Diogo Dalot is expected to continue at right-back after impressing in the last few matches. Alex Telles is also likely to hold on to his spot on the opposite flank ahead of Luke Shaw. There is no looking past Fred and Scott McTominay in the middle of the park, although the latter will need to start being more progressive with his distribution.

Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho ought to occupy the two attacking midfield slots and will be the main chance-creating outlets for Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored twice in the last game against Newcastle, will line up in attack alongside Marcus Rashford, with Cavani and Martial likely to get some minutes off the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): de Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; McTominay, Fred; Sancho, Fernandes; Ronaldo, Rashford

Key Stats

  • Manchester United have won 1-0 in their two Premier League games so far under interim manager Ralf Rangnick. He can become the first Red Devils’ boss to keep a clean sheet in his opening three league fixtures.
  • Newcastle United have picked up just one win from their seven games under Eddie Howe, losing the last three in a row.
  • Manchester United have won their last four Premier League games against Newcastle United – their longest such run against the Magpies since a series of five victories between 2004 and 2006.
  • Newcastle have lost all ten Premier League matches this campaign against teams in the top half of the table. In contrast, they are unbeaten in eight games versus clubs in the bottom half.
  • Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven Premier League goals against Newcastle, all coming in his past four league appearances against them.

Player to Watch

Marcus Rashford

It has been a frustrating season so far for Marcus Rashford, who had to miss the early parts of the campaign with an injury. While he did score a few goals soon after returning, the England international has been largely underwhelming of late, failing to provide any sort of threat or productivity at the top.

Indeed, Rashford has gone without scoring a goal in each of his last eight appearances across all competitions, while he has contributed a solitary assist during this period. With Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial back to full fitness and Mason Greenwood waiting in the wings, the 24-year-old will be under pressure to step up and deliver for Manchester United or risk losing his spot in the starting XI.

Thankfully for the Manchester United academy graduate, he will be facing a Newcastle United team with the worst defensive record in the Premier League on Monday. Furthermore, he has been directly involved in a career-best seven goals against the Magpies, scoring four and assisting three in seven league games. He will back himself to get a goal or two at St. James’ Park.

Prediction 

Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester United

As iterated earlier, Newcastle United have shown some improvements since Eddie Howe took over the reins. However, they are still a long way away from being a team capable of churning out points against a top-four hopeful. Defensive vulnerabilities remain intact, and Manchester United have the tools to exploit them with ease, having done so already once this season.

The Red Devils have kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League under Ralf Rangnick, and the German has had more time to sharpen up his players during the past week, once their training ground was reopened after the outbreak. As a result, The Hard Tackle predicts yet another victory for Manchester United, piling up further misery on the Toon.

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