The last game of Sunday’s Premier League schedule features a high-stakes match-up between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park.
Although the Magpies start this round in fifth, the encounter on Tyneside has all the makings of a ‘top-four six-pointer,’ with the third-placed Red Devils sitting only three points clear.
Eddie Howe’s side were building a head of steam with back-to-back 2-1 league wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest before March’s international break stopped them in their tracks.
Having put a woeful run of one win from eight league outings prior behind them (D5, L2), Newcastle will be looking to pick up where they left off after enjoying warm-weather preparations in Dubai.
What better way to further their pursuit of a long-awaited top-four finish in the Premier League than avenging a 2-0 loss from February’s League Cup heartbreak at the hands of Man United?
But like their hosts, Erik ten Hag’s high-flyers went from strength to strength before the international break, stringing together four competitive games without a loss (W3, D1).
United pulled off a late comeback to beat Fulham 3-1 in a bizarre FA Cup quarter-final tie last time out as the club’s player of the month, Bruno Fernandes, netted a double to inspire the Red Devils’ charge of another domestic title.
Now back to their Premier League duties for the first time since a lacklustre 0-0 draw against basement boys Southampton, Man Utd will have a point to prove at St James’ Park.
Newcastle’s mini-revival has seen them go from two consecutive defeats in the Premier League to back-to-back triumphs, but they’ve not won three on the trot since the league resumed after the World Cup.
St James’ Park is arguably the best place for the Magpies to launch another substantial winning streak and bolster their hopes of securing Champions League placings for the first time since 2002/03.
Howe’s side have suffered just one league defeat on home turf this season (W7, D5), collecting a slight majority (56%) of their total Premier League points in their backyard (26/47).
Against this backdrop, despite racking up two wins in their last five top-flight meetings with Man Utd at home (D1, L2), the Magpies have lost more Premier League home games to this opposition (14) than any other side.
There’s a feeling they could defy that script on Sunday, especially after holding the Red Devils to a tepid scoreless draw in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford.
Interestingly, that shut-out means Newcastle could keep United scoreless in successive Premier League duels for the first time since 1997, highlighting their ambition to snap a six-game league run without a clean sheet.
After winning consecutive league matches by multi-goal margins and without conceding, Man United have failed to get on the scoresheet in their last two Premier League fixtures.
While it’s hard to imagine one of the league’s most prolific attacks to draw another blank, producing another disheartening attacking showing would see United fail to score in three straight top-flight games for the first time since February 2020.
Ten Hag’s men are well advised to rediscover their scoring touch if they’re to waltz away from St James’ Park with three points, given their ponderous defending has often let them down on the road this term.
Only three season-long relegation candidates, including Bournemouth, Leicester City and Forest, have conceded more Premier League goals away from home than United (27).
Adding to Ten Hag’s problems, his charges have gone winless on three of their last four league travels (D1, L2), with both defeats in that stretch coming against sides starting this round in the upper half of the table.
Player to Watch: Alexander Isak
Marquee summer signing Alexander Isak has been in red-hot form lately, netting three goals in his last two Premier League appearances, including a match-winning brace at Forest last time out.
The ex-Real Sociedad striker is on the verge of making history, as he could become only the third Swedish player to find the net in three straight Premier League outings.
Player to Watch: Marcus Rashford
Not many European stars have been as productive as Marcus Rashford in 2023, with the England international taking the Premier League by storm after the World Cup break.
Not only has the 25-year-old scored a league-high nine winning goals this season, but he’s been involved in seven goals in his nine top-flight starts against Newcastle, tallying four strikes and three assists.
Premier League Form
Newcastle United: WWLLD
Manchester United: DLWWD
Besides long-term absentees Ryan Fraser and Emil Krafth, Newcastle won’t be able to call upon the services of standout forward Miguel Almiron due to a thigh injury.
The Paraguayan’s absence means Howe must reach out to the bench to replace one of the Magpies’ headline performers, with Allan Saint-Maximin in a pole position to take his place.
A wealth of injury and illness doubts related to Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Anthony Gordon may still present the Newcastle boss with more difficult choices to make.
Man United will be without teen sensation Alejandro Garnacho, who picked up a foot injury during the FA Cup win over West Ham United.
In addition to the Argentine whizz-kid, Sunday’s game will come too soon for Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, and Christian Eriksen, who is edging closer to a long-awaited recovery.
According to The Sun, Rashford will likely win the race against time to make himself available.
Ten Hag’s most trusted midfielder Casemiro is unavailable for selection after receiving a straight red card against Southampton.
Scott McTominay, who excelled during the international break with Scotland, could be a decent replacement for the Brazilian powerhouse in the Dutchman’s double-pivot.
Newcastle United potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Nick Pope; Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Sven Botman, Dan Burn; Sean Longstaff, Bruno Guimaraes, Joe Willock; Allan Saint-Maximin, Alexander Isak, Joelinton.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw; Marcel Sabitzer, Scott McTominay; Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Wout Weghorst.
We Say: Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester United
Newcastle will be out to prove their pre-international break resurgence wasn’t just a product of encountering more favourable opponents.
Howe has done a stellar job in turning St James’ Park into a fortress this season, and it’s hard for the bravest souls to bet against the Magpies on their home soil.
On top of Newcastle’s rock-solid home form, Man Utd’s proneness to dropping points outside Old Trafford is too big of an issue to be neglected in what promises to be a challenging game.
- Ugly melee in Edinburgh Derby after Hearts’ draw 1-1 with Hibernian
- Lionel Messi equals Dani Alves’ trophy record after Ligue 1 triumph with PSG
- PSG make Ligue 1 history
- Tottenham considering move for Fulham loanee Manor Solomon
- Edin Terzic: ‘Everything feels very empty’ – Borussia Dortmund coach reacts after losing Bundesliga title to Bayern Munich