The Premier League resumes after the European exploits in midweek as two struggling football clubs will be united at Old Trafford on Saturday – to see if either of them could put the other one out of their misery.
Manchester United have already reached a crucial juncture in the season where some big decisions need to be made – here and now – to completely restructure the way they operate and align themselves with the best-run football clubs in the world.
After a dismal defeat at the London Stadium, it is pretty evident that the dressing room is now splintered and the players and the staff may not all be pulling in the same direction. The absence of any kind of vocal reassurance from the hierarchy with regard to the position of the incumbent manager – which is usually the norm in a situation of this ilk – has not gone unnoticed and it has given the impression that Jose Mourinho may already only be another bad defeat from his continued employment becoming untenable even though the truth may be far from that.
On the back of a drab draw against Valencia in the Champions League where they remain the only unbeaten English side, it will be interesting if they could actually take positives from that fact and kick on from here.
If there’s one football club that is worse than Manchester United in terms of administration – then it is, without a shadow of a doubt, Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United. As a result, it is no surprise that the Magpies have also started the season on the back foot – they are yet to win a game and currently sit 18th with only two points on board, thanks to draws against newly-promoted Cardiff City and Crystal Palace.
Rafael Benitez is an exceptional coach with a good track record of silverware, but the dearth of football men and planning at the club and the lack of consistent investment in the squad has prevented them from any kind of tangible progression. There is enough history between Benitez and Mourinho to suggest that the former would be relishing the opportunity to effectively knock the Portuguese out of his job at Manchester United – which makes this game a compelling one for both sides.
Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, and Jesse Lingard all missed Tuesday’s goalless draw against Valencia and it remains to be seen if any of the quartet will be back in action against Newcastle this weekend.
Federico Fernandez and Paul Dummett could return for Rafa Benitez’s men on Saturday. The defensive duo missed Newcastle’s defeat against Leicester City last weekend – both with hamstring injuries – but they may have recovered in time for the trip to Old Trafford. Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon is still unavailable with a thigh injury, while long-term absentee Florian Lejeune (knee) will also be missing.
- Manchester United have a great record against Newcastle United, losing only one of their last 36 home matches in all competitions against them, winning 26 and drawing nine. The loss was a 1-0 defeat under David Moyes in December 2013.
- Newcastle United are aiming for consecutive league wins over Man Utd for the first time since October 1972.
- An opening goal for Newcastle in this fixture could be ominous for them. They have lost seven Premier League matches when scoring first against Man Utd.
- The two managers have good records against their opponents. Rafael Benitez has won six of his last nine against Man Utd in all competitions, but Jose Mourinho can better that, winning all seven at home against Newcastle in all competitions.
Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
There are not many contenders for Manchester United right now – but Rashford’s performance in midweek, if anything, was the only positive in another uninspiring performance at home in a European tie. Rashford looked like he cared – and his flashes of quality on the left were the only moments when United looked remotely watchable. Manchester United simply need to win on Saturday – to stop the rot and they lack imagination in front of goal but it is imperative that the 20-year old Rashford steps up once again during these desperate times as United look for their first win in 3 PL matches.
Jonjo Shelvey – Newcastle United
It is understandable for this game to be a touch more special and important for Jonjo Shelvey – being raised in the Liverpool Academy and idolizing Steven Gerrard in his boyhood years in Merseyside. Shelvey can be very good when he applies himself and his efficient use of the ball in midfield against the likes of Paul Pogba, Fred and Nemanja Matic will be vital to Newcastle United if they were to have a chance of coming away with something on Saturday.
When two naturally not-very-expansive sides collide in a matchup with high stakes, the outcome is rarely spectacular.
I reckon this is going to one such edgy, boring tie that ends 1-0 only leading to more questions than answers.
Manchester United 1-0 Newcastle United