After a pretty good start to 2021, Manchester United are back to their inconsistent ways. With only one win in their last 5 Premier League games, they’ve taken themselves out of the title race. Being only 4 points clear of dropping below the top-4, they need to start producing results to at least stay in a podium place.
Up next are Newcastle United, who on paper, should be a cakewalk. However, facing bottom-half sides or relegation contenders, in particular, has been a nightmare for United. They’ve lost to Sheffield United & drawn to West Brom in recent weeks. If they’re to keep a hold of the second position in the league, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men need to buckle up & produce a dominant performance to end this embarrassing drought vs bottom-feeders.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Bruno, Greenwood, Rashford, Martial
Paul Pogba is the long-term injury absentee. Edinson Cavani & Donny van de Beek are also doubtful for this one.
Newcastle United Likely XI
Darlow, Kraft, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis, Willock, Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton
Newcastle will miss their key striker Callum Wilson, while defenders Fabian Schar & Javier Manquillo are also set to miss the clash due to injury.
Manchester United vs Newcastle United Preview
Perhaps it’s the ridiculous schedule which has them playing games every 2-3 days, but United seem to have hit a slump in form. The thing is – it couldn’t have come at a worse period possible with the business end of the season kicking in.
With teams below the top-4 now also fighting hard to get among the Champions League places, United need to be on their guard to protect their position on the table. After a dominant win over Real Sociedad in the Europa League, getting a similar win against a struggling side like Newcastle is quintessential for the Red Devils to continue building on their winning momentum.
Newcastle are losing games & conceding goals like there’s no tomorrow. But they’ll also deploy the low-block defensive style (better known as parking the bus), against which OGS’ side finds it very difficult to play against. The lack of counter-attack opportunities, packed area inside the penalty area & tight man-marking tends to hold down the intensity of United’s style.
But if they’re to really prove themselves among the best in the land, they need to get over this problem. One good thing is that Bruno Fernandes excels against any opposition he faces in the PL. A genuine contender for the Golden Boot, he’ll be looking to reinvigorate United’s senses by taking charge in creating big chances, breaking open Newcastle’s backline and looking to sneak into goal-scoring areas himself.
But the Red Devils can’t rely on the Bruno magic all the time. Marcus Rashford & Mason Greenwood have shown shades of their brilliance in recent weeks, but lacked that clinical touch. They just have to be more ruthless or decisive in front of goals to get their own confidence back and get the floodgates open against the Magpies.
Anthony Martial is desperate for goals after last scoring in New Year’s day. He should get enough chances to score vs a wobbly Newcastle side, but needs to time his movement & finishing better to produce results. Fred got a clever assist in the win over Sociedad & needs to keep producing more attractive forward passes to fill Pogba’s creative void.
Scott McTominay’s scored in his last 3 games at Old Trafford. He’ll hope to rediscover his magic at home & bully Newcastle with his physicality. United can’t just dominate possession and hope for chances to come. They must experiment with their attacking moves and take a few more risks, because Steve Bruce’s side is walking on wonky legs right now.
That would mean that Luke Shaw & Aaron Wan-Bissaka be more adventurous with their forward runs & make better crosses into the box. Shaw is in-form the best left-back in England & has 4 assists in his last 3 games! He’ll look to continue that good work by churning out perfect crosses for his teammates, while Wan-Bissaka aspires to match his teammate’s level.
But United can’t overcommit into attack too much to underestimate Newcastle’s attack. Allan Saint-Maximim’s a real firecracker with his movement & trickery, while Miguel Almiron can create unpredictable chances out of nothing. Joelinton’s physicality can be troubling at times & Newcastle’s midfield also has some potent goal-scorers.
Harry Maguire & co really can’t afford to make any more defensive mistakes. They must remain 100% focused throughout the game to keep a clean sheet. United might be struggling against bottom sides, but all they can do is keep piling the pressure on Newcastle with persistent, unpredictable attacks to break their guard & get back to winning ways in the league.
Despite their recent troubles, United have actually been in very good form at Old Trafford – which is why I’m going for a 3-1 win for the Red Devils to break their curse against relegation contenders.