This Saturday, Newcastle United welcome Manchester United to St. James’ Park for a Premier League clash. Both teams are in the position where there is not much left to play for in the league, but they will still want to finish the season on a high. The Magpies come into the game after two heavy defeats in a row. They were beaten 3-0 at home by Everton and 4-0 away by Southampton, with manager Alan Pardew unable to be involved on the touchline. Since January, they have only won four of their 13 league games.
In comparison, they won eight of the previous 13 matches. Manchester United have had had a mixed March, winning three times but losing 3-0 in their two big games against Liverpool and Manchester City. Their 4-1 victory against Villa last Saturday and their draw with Bayern in midweek should bring a more positive outlook to the squad. They have an excellent away record this season that they will want to continue against Newcastle.
Newcastle have a large injury list ahead of the game on Saturday. Newcastle will be without Moussa Sissoko (Hamstring), Tim Krul (Knee), Shola Ameobi (Ankle), Mathieu Debuchy (Groin), Loic Remy (Calf), Gabriel Obertan (Knee) and Ryan Taylor (Knee). The Magpies had been hopeful that Remy would return, but he has suffered a setback and will not be back until next week’s game at the earliest.
United themselves also have some injury problems. Ryan Giggs was injured in midweek against Bayern and will miss the game with a groin injury. He joins Antonio Valencia (Knee), Rafael (Hamstring), Robin Van Persie (Knee), Chris Smalling (Hamstring) and Jonny Evans (Calf) on the side-lines. Alex Buttner should recover from a hamstring injury he suffered in midweek to at least make the bench.
- When the teams met earlier in the season, Newcastle defeated United 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a Yohan Cabaye goal, which gave them their first win there since 1972. Cabaye has since left St. James’ Park, and that signalled the Magpies’ change in fortunes on the pitch.
- Newcastle have now conceded three or more goals in five of their last nine games. Since the turn of the year, Newcastle are yet to beat a team in the top half.
- The Red Devils have only lost one of their last ten at St. James’ Park in the league.
- They have only lost one game in 15 against Newcastle when Wayne Rooney has played.
- United are top of the away league table this season with 30 points.
Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini will need to be at his very best in order to keep Wayne Rooney and co. at bay on Saturday. The Argentinian is now in his sixth season at St. James’ Park and is a vital component of the team. Coloccini was absent from the games in which they conceded so many goals against Sunderland, Chelsea and Spurs, but was present as the Magpies were beaten 4-0 last week.
Of the 21 games he has played this season, the Magpies have kept six of their eight clean sheets. In the 21 games with Coloccini they have conceded 28 goals , in the ten without him they have conceded 21. This means they conceded an average of 1.28 games with their captain, but average 2.1 a game without him. A good performance from their captain, like there was the last time they played Manchester United, and Newcastle will be in with a chance of getting something from the game.
Wayne Rooney has been in excellent form for Manchester United in the last few months. Since ending a two month drought without a goal against Palace in February, Rooney has managed to score six goals in six games. With Robin Van Persie currently injured, Rooney has been asked to operate as a main striker and has returned to goal scoring ways. He now has 15 league goals this season, which is an excellent return for the England international. He also has 10 assists, showing the massive overall contribution he has given to United this season. Rooney also has a fantastic record against Newcastle in the past. He has scored 10 goals against the Magpies in his career, nine times for United and once for Everton.
In recent seasons this goal scoring touch has deserted him as he has not scored against Newcastle since 2009, but he does have four assists in five games since his last goal. Saturday’s game offers Rooney an excellent opportunity to break his duck. Rooney will be the driving force in getting Manchester United points as they move into the final games of the season.
With the bad form that Newcastle are in and Manchester United’s strong away record, it will be hard not to back United for this one. Despite this, Newcastle will be able to draw on confidence from beating United earlier on in the season. Newcastle could also be given the advantage of facing a weaker United team, as David Moyes will probably rest some stars in preparation for United’s second leg against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. United should prove too strong for the Magpies and I predict a 3-0 win for them.