Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will pose a similarly difficult challenge for the Magpies with the Red Devil’s winning three consecutive games since their derby day humiliation. United have responded brilliantly since the 6-1 hammering suffered at Old Trafford with Saturday’s tea time win over Swansea making a hat trick of 1-0 victories. Ferguson has used his 25-years of experience to the maximum degree to ensure United didn’t let the City defeat destabilise their title challenge with the Scot shutting up shop and getting back to basics. The defence has been boosted by the return of Nemanja Vidic and the improving form of Rio Ferdinand who was widely blamed for his performance in the derby defeat. The duo, who have been the cornerstone of United’s success over the last five-years or so, have rarely played together this season but when they have the back four has looked solid. Another major plus point of their recent good form has been the return of Javier Hernandez from injury with the Mexican striker displaying his ability to score goals away from home with the winners against the Swans and Everton. His partnership with Wayne Rooney is United’s deadliest tool in the final third with his intelligent running creating space and opportunities for the England striker to utilise his range of passing. One major concern that remains for Ferguson is the level of creativity coming from his midfield especially against a strong Newcastle side. Michael Carrick did okay on his first Premier League start of the season alongside Ryan Giggs and Ji Sung Park but there will need to be more if they are to overcome the Geordies.
Last week’s loss at the Etihad Stadium was the Magpies’ first defeat in 14 games and ended their 11 match unbeaten start to the season. Alan Pardew’s men put up a valiant effort in the blue half of Manchester and had they taken their chances the game could have turned out a lot differently. Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and Danny Guthrie all had opportunities to score before Dan Gosling’s 90th minute consolation. Injuries to key players Cheick Tiote, Gabriel Obertan and Leon Best destabilised a settled squad that had won six of their last seven games and rose to third in the table. Despite the changes Newcastle performed superbly and matched the league leaders for only 40 minutes before two mistakes from makeshift left back Ryan Taylor saw them two down before the break. The former Wigan man has been a revelation since replacing Jose Enrique in the back four building an effective partnership with winger Jonas Gutierrez. However his confidence will have been shot after his nightmare in Manchester and Pardew has a big decision to make as to whether he unsettles the back four by giving Davide Santon his full league debut against the Red Devils. Keeping morale at it’s optimum level is a massive job for the Toon boss and it will be interesting to see how the players respond following their first league defeat of the campaign. It will be a difficult task considering the the Magpies have never beaten United at Old Trafford in the 17 Premier League campaigns.
Manchester United −2nd
Last Five: Won 1-0 v Swansea (A), Won 1-0 v Sunderland (H), Won 1-0 v Everton (A), Lost 6-1 v Manchester City (H), Drew 1-1 v Liverpool (A)
Potential Starting X11: 1. D. de Gea 4. P. Jones 15. N. Vidic [C]* 5. R. Ferdinand 3. P. Evra 13. J. Park 24. D. Fletcher 16. M. Carrick 17. Nani 14. J. Hernandez 10. W. Rooney
Injury News: Danny Wellbeck could return to the United side after missing the Swansea with a muscle strain. Tom Cleverley, Michael Owen and Chris Smalling all remain out.
Key Player: Nemanja Vidic
Since returning to the side for the game against Everton at the end of October the captain has led his side to three clean sheets in a row as they continue their recovery from their derby day nightmare. Vidic’s presence in the back four has been a major boost to United as they continue to chase behind City at the top of the Premier League. He put his body on the line against Swansea last weekend and will be expected to do the same against Newcastle on Saturday.
Match Fact: United have never lost to Newcastle at Old Trafford in the Premier League era winning 11 of the 17 fixtures contested between the two teams.
Newcastle – 4th
Last Five: Lost 3-1 v Manchester City (A), Won Everton 2-1 (H), Won 3-1 Stoke (A), Won 1-0 v Wiga (H), Drew 2-2 v Tottenham (H), Won 2-1 v Wolves (A)
Potential Starting X11: 26. T. Krul 5. D. Simpson 2. F. Coloccini [C] 27. S. Taylor 16. R. Taylor 8. D. Guthrie 4. Yohan Cabaye 24. C. Tiote 18. J. Gutierrez 10. H. Ben Arfa* 19.D. Ba
Injury News: Doubts still persist over the fitness of Best and Obertan with both likely to miss Newcastle’s second trip to Manchester in the space of a week. However they could have midfield enforcer Tiote back alongside Yohan Cabaye in the middle.
Key Player: Hatem Ben Arfa
The Frenchman started his first Premier League game in over a year at the place where he begun his last. Ben Arfa broke his leg at the Etihad Stadium last October and returned with a bang putting in accomplished display in the ‘number 10’ role behind lone striker Ba. His elegance on the ball and forward thinking gave Newcastle an extra edge in attack and it’s likely he’ll be given a chance to continue his comeback at Old Trafford.
Match Fact: Newcastle’s record at Old Trafford is abysmal with the Magpies failing to win an away game in the red half of Manchester since a 2-0 victory on 12th February 1972 – over 39 years ago.
Last Time at Old Trafford
Premier League 16 August 2010
Manchester United 3- 0 Newcastle
Berbatov, 33. Fletcher, 41. Giggs, 85.
Referee: Chris Foy
United have bounced back superbly from their derby day defeat at Old Trafford with three 1-0 wins on the trot including one over Newcastle’s North East rivals Sunderland in their last fixture on home turf. Ferguson has been boosted by the return of Vidic to boost a back four that was looking frail whilst Rooney and Hernandez continue to do the business up top. As for Newcastle they’ll need a swift respond after losing in the blue half of Manchester last week and it’s likely Pardew will keep faith with a majority of the side that started in that game. The return of Tiote to partner Cabaye in midfield will be crucial although should they waste their chances like they did at the Etihad then they’ll be staring down the barrel at a second consecutive defeat.