The Magpies have lost three consecutive matches since beating Chelsea back on December 6th. Newcastle have been outscored 9-1 in those matches. They continue to be decimated by injuries. And after a good month of November, manager Alan Pardew is again on the hot seat.
Manchester United have recovered from a relatively poor start to the season. Louis van Gaal’s club are undefeated in their last seven matches and currently sit alone in third. The Red Devil are coming off a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
Injuries and Suspensions
Newcastle have a long list of injuries which finally appears to be taking its toll on the club’s performances. The club did receive some positive news this week. Jonas Gutierrez has returned to Tyneside, playing for the club’s reserve squad on Monday against West Ham. It was the Argentinian’s first game action since being declared cancer-free. But there is no timetable for his return.
Newcastle is not expecting to get back any players in time for the match against Manchester United. Mehdi Abeid (broken toe), Tim Krul (ankle), Rob Eliott (thigh muscle), Rolando Aarons (Hamstring), Siem de Jong (thigh), Ryan Taylor (knee), Davide Santon (knee) and Gabriel Obertan (thigh) are all unavailable. The only good news is that several players are expected to return sometime in January. Cheick Tioté picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and will be suspended for the match.
Manchester United have had their share of injuries as well. Luke Shaw is expected to return after missing a month of action due to an ankle injury. Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera missed last week’s match because of a muscle injury but he did return to training this week. His status is uncertain for Friday’s match.
Marcos Rojo (thigh muscle) and Chris Smalling (groin) could return against Newcastle as well. However, Marouane Fellaini is out indefinitely with an illness and will not play on Friday. And Daley Blind is still a few weeks away from returning from a knee injury.
Possible Line-Ups and Tactics
Newcastle manager Pardew has gone with the 4-2-3-1 formation for most of the season. Pardew is not expected to make very many changes for Friday’s match despite the club’s recent form. He is short of options right now with so many injuries to key players. The loss of Tioté does not help matters.
Sammy Ammeobi and Yoan Gouffran started on the wings for the club against Sunderland and were largely ineffective. Gouffran has struggled to find his form all season. Adam Armstrong played half an hour in the last match and could factor at some point.
Louis van Gaal has been more unpredictable with his squad selections this season with Manchester United. The Dutch manager has not been shy about playing with three at the back on occasion. In recent weeks, Manchester United have played with two strikers and Juan Mata in the ‘Number 10’ position. The Red Devils could welcome back Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw from injuries.
Goalscoring has not been a problem for van Gaal’s club this season. They have scored 30 goals in their first 17 matches, which is the third most in the Premier League. Robin van Persie leads the way with seven, followed closely behind by Wayne Rooney with six, and Juan Mata with five. However, the club has been known to leak goals at crucial times this season.
Manchester United’s draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park last week put an end to a six-match winning streak. However, the club appears to be hitting their best form. Old Trafford has become a fortress once again. Since losing their first home match to Swansea back on August 16th, the club are unbeaten in their last eight matches, winning seven in that time.
Newcastle beat Manchester United at Old Trafford last December in one of the most memorable matches in recent times. However, the Red Devils returned the favour in April with a sobering 4-0 defeat of Newcastle at St. James’ Park. The hosts have a clear advantage in recent encounters against the Magpies, having won six of the last 10 matches.
Alan Pardew’s squad is struggling with injuries, as well as with results. The club has only one victory in their last six matches. And they are without a victory in their last three matches away from home. They will travel back home to face Everton on Sunday.
Manchester United are in top form and should be encouraged by several players returning to action. But Newcastle have demonstrated an ability to raise their game against more talented clubs this season. The match will end in a draw.
Manchester United 1 – 1 Newcastle United