It is going to be a difficult period for Premier League clubs as they attempt to manage the current health crisis in the UK, but the league has decided to persist with the festive programme. Newcastle United host Manchester United on the 27th December, in what will be an important match for both sides. The home side simply must start picking up points to remain in touching distance with the teams above them. They can’t treat this fixture as a ‘free hit’. Meanwhile, the visitors will want to get their top four challenge back on track and find their match rhythm after their own Covid-19 crisis.
The next six weeks will be vital in the short term future of Newcastle United. They need to make good additions in January if they are to perform a miracle and survive in the Premier League. On the pitch, they need to pick up points and this could be a good time to face Manchester United. The away side will be short of match fitness after a break from Premier League action and there could be some lasting effects of the Covid-19 outbreak. Although Newcastle will need to play well to win, their fitness levels should be superior and that could play a part.
Ralf Rangnick has picked up successive league victories since taking over as Manchester United manager, on an interim basis. The performances haven’t been great, but supporters will be hoping that good work has been done on the training ground either side of the closure. This is a good opportunity for the team to make up ground in the race for a top four finish, as they have a kind run of fixtures.
Newcastle have now conceded 79 times in 2021. If they concede one more, it will be a sole record for the most goals conceded by a Premier League team in a calendar year.
Manchester United have won the last four Premier League meetings between the two clubs, scoring 15 goals in the process.
It has been a tough task playing in attack for Newcastle. Despite their problems, they have created chances in attack. The issue is that the attackers need to score three or four to stand a chance of winning a match for their side. This is due to the horrific defensive record. Wilson will be key for the rest of the season and he has the potential to score the goals to fire the Magpies to safety. However, he will need to be supported by the rest of the team and the defensive record will need to improve. Wilson’s style will cause problems for Manchester United, who do lack mobility at the heart of their defence. The Newcastle striker will run the channels and challenge physically for balls in the air. Harry Maguire and whoever partners the England international will know they have been in a game. Last weekend, Wilson nearly managed to get a consolation against Manchester City. He will cause problems for any team he faces.
After a period of rest, it will be expected that Cristiano Ronaldo is raring to go for the next period of matches. It has been clear that he is the biggest goal threat in the current Manchester United squad, as he has scored seven times in the Premier League, at a rate of one every 146.9 minutes. Although he is declining in some parts of his game, he is still an elite goal scorer and he will be relishing the chance to face the worst defence in the league. The first meeting of these two clubs this season was the Portuguese legend’s first match back at Old Trafford. He scored twice that day and that will give him confidence that he can be among the goals at St James’ Park. There remain some concerns about how he suits the style of play Rangnick is looking to implement, but he is a goal-scorer and he will be the player Eddie Howe is worried about.
Isaac Hayden will be suspended after collecting his fifth yellow card against Manchester City. Federico Fernandez and Jamal Lewis will be unavailable through injury until January. It is hoped Jonjo Shelvey, Emil Krafth and Javier Manquillo will all be fit to play a part.
The period without matches has helped Manchester United. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane could all be available for the trip to the North East. Paul Pogba remains on the sidelines, while it is unclear whether there will be any players unavailable due to Covid.
This looks to be a straightforward away win on paper, but there have been some positive signs in Newcastle’s recent losses to Manchester City and Liverpool. The team they will be facing this weekend are not as good as the two they have just faced. Their defensive record is a huge concern, but the atmosphere will be electric in what could be the final match with fans in the stadium for a while. There are reasons to believe the home side could spring a shock.
Newcastle United 2-2 Manchester United