Manchester United will be hoping to continue their winning start to the new Premier League season when they take on a Newcastle United side that has lost its last seven away matches stretching back to February.
Just like it was against Tottenham on opening day, it was not a vintage Man Utd performance that earned them victory over Aston Villa last time out, with a number of passes going astray and the attacking fluency that they are so renowned for often lacking. Wayne Rooney was again on the periphery, leaving the likes of Juan Mata and goalscorer Adnan Januzaj to make the more decisive contributions. On Tuesday that responsibility was taken over by Memphis Depay, who brilliantly scored his first two goals for the club against Club Brugge in their Champions League qualifier.
However, the result was the most important thing and getting the winner will have represented a massive confidence boost for Januzaj, who has experienced real frustration since Louis van Gaal took over at Old Trafford. David De Gea continues to be kept out of the firing line by the Dutchman, but his replacement Sergio Romero has received superb protection from centre-backs Chris Smalling and Daley Blind; the latter showing off his versatility by slotting seamlessly into his new role.
All that means that there will be extra pressure on the Newcastle backline, who were given a tough examination by Swansea City, losing comfortably and playing half of the game with 10 men due to the careless sending off of Darryl Janmaat. They could not get to grips with the Welsh club from the beginning and created little as Steve McClaren suffered his first defeat since taking over in the summer.
But they still have players that can hurt Man Utd, and Gabriel Obertan may see this as an opportunity to repay McClaren’s faith by producing a big performance against his former club, while Moussa Sissoko will relish the prospect of a personal duel with Matteo Darmian, who has not looked out of place amongst all the physicality the Premier League has to offer. With Arsenal and Chelsea coming up in the weeks ahead, this begins a tricky run of fixtures for the Magpies.
Bastian Schweinsteiger might make his first start for Man Utd after coming on as a substitute in the last three games. Marouane Fellaini completes a three-match domestic ban, while Phil Jones is still out through illness.
Janmaat is suspended for the away side after his dismissal in South Wales, but Sissoko should be fit following a groin problem. New signing Florian Thauvin could be handed his debut.
Last Meeting: It was plain sailing for Man Utd on Boxing Day 2014 as registered a 3-1 victory, with Wayne Rooney’s first half double effectively ending the game as a contest. The captain was the star of the show and made a telling contribution in the build-up to the third goal, setting up Robin van Persie. A late Papiss Cisse penalty was scant consolation for Newcastle, who were a distant second best.
Played for both – Alan Smith: After excelling for first club Leeds United, Smith moved to Old Trafford in 2004 for £7m, and was highly regarded by Sir Alex Ferguson. Unfortunately, injuries limited his playing time during his three-year stay and he joined Newcastle having scored seven goals in 61 league outings. He was again hampered on Tyneside, where he spent five years, suffering relegation in 2009 but helping the club back to the top-flight a year later.
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