Steve Bruce must unleash Paul Dummett after confirming that Newcastle will be without Federico Fernandez against Manchester United on Sunday due to a calf injury.
That’s according to The Northern Echo, who quote the Magpies boss as stating that the Argentine returned to training earlier this week but will not be fit to feature at Old Trafford.
The Toon have been without Fernandez since January’s 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United when Bruce’s men earned the unwanted honour of becoming the first side to lose a Premier League fixture to Chris Wilder’s relegation-threatened Blades this season.
Fernandez has since missed Newcastle’s last seven top-flight fixtures as a result of his calf issue, as well as the FA Cup third-round defeat to Arsenal.
But while the defender will not be considered for a recall against Manchester United, Bruce hopes to award the 31-year-old his 18th appearance of the season across all competitions when the Toon host Wolverhampton Wanderers next Saturday.
“Fede has trained [on Thursday] and the day before, for the first time,” Bruce said. “Unfortunately, Man U will be too quick for him. He’s been [out for] a month with his calf. But we’re hoping, against Wolves, that he might be ready.”
Newcastle will also be without Callum Wilson, Javier Manquillo and Fabian Schar at Old Trafford. And while the trio are long-term absentees, Bruce is most optimistic over Manquillo’s situation.
“They’re going to be [out for] weeks,” Bruce added. “Schar has had his operation, but we’re only talking about a week ago. Callum’s is a muscle injury, so we’ve just got to be patient and wait there.
“The one that looks better than most is Manquillo. He twisted his ankle badly but has responded very, very well to treatment. But with the other two, Fab has had his operation and, with Callum, we know we’ve just [got] to be patient with it and give him as much time as he needs.”
Bruce ruling Fernandez out of Newcastle’s trip to Manchester United on Sunday must now see the Toon boss unleash Dummett for only his third start of the Premier League season, after confirming that the £4m-rated titan is in contention for a rare appearance.
Dummett had to wait until December to earn his first top-flight outing of the term due to the hamstring strain he sustained last January before returning to the treatment room last month due to what Bruce described as fatigue following tendon problems.
The 29-year-old is now back in a state where the Magpies boss believes he can play a role at Old Trafford, where Bruce feels Dummett’s experience could come in handy.
“We’ll need his experience and know-how,” Bruce said, via quotes by Chronicle Live. “We’re also mindful of just throwing him in there. Since Southampton, he’s trained another week and the more sessions he does the better. He’s there or thereabouts.”
Dummett proved his defensive expertise during his last Premier League appearance against the Saints after coming on as a 67th-minute substitute and recording a joint game-high seven clearances to help protect Newcastle’s one-goal advantage while down to nine men.
For comparison, Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo offers the most clearances per game among all players who have featured more than five times in the top-flight this term with 5.8, so Dummett could clearly bring something to the table in Fernandez’s absence if unleashed on Manchester United.