Jose Mourinho will expect to take three points from a long-time rival when his Manchester United side host Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday (17:30 GMT, live on BT Sport).
There has been plenty of needle between the two coaches over the years, originally stemming from a series of tight and tense encounters when Benitez was at Liverpool and Mourinho at Chelsea back in the mid-2000s. Their war of words has since continued pretty much unabated.
Benitez would clearly love to frustrate Mourinho again and take a famous scalp this weekend, but it is more important fixture for Mourinho, whose side currently sit second in the Premier League, with 23 points from seven wins, two draws and two defeats.
It has been a solid start, but it doesn’t look quite so good when it is contextualised against the sparkling start made by the Manchester City side of Pep Guardiola. United’s 0-1 defeat away to Chelsea last time out saw the gap to City increase to eight points in what is increasingly looking like a title race that is destined to end in their local rivals’ favour, as the Premier League betting suggests.
Mourinho’s side has dropped points in three of their last four matches and really need to get themselves back on track with a strong victory this weekend. City have a run of favourable fixtures ahead, and all United can do is try to match their points haul and stay in range ahead of the first Manchester derby of the season on December 10.
The sooner Paul Pogba returns from injury the better. The French international has been out of action since suffering a hamstring tear in mid-September and the balance of the United midfield hasn’t looked quite right in his absence. That has been evident further forward, where Romelu Lukaku is currently on a six-match scoreless streak in league and Champions League action. Pogba could be involved this weekend but is unlikely to be risked.
Mourinho will therefore have to find other solutions as he seeks to regain some of the attacking verve United displayed in seeing off a series of lesser sides at the start of the campaign. Lukaku scored in both of Belgium’s friendlies during the international break and will hope to carry that form into Saturday’s match against potentially awkward opponents.
Newcastle have been everything one would expect from a Benitez side so far this season. They are well-organised, well-balanced and always keep their matches tight. Three of their four victories have been by a single goal, while only one of their five defeats was by a margin of more than one. In short, they look a fairly competent Premier League side.
It must, however, be noted that while the Magpies look good for a solid mid-table finish in their first season back in the top flight, there have been signs that a lack of firepower may mean that their continued participation in the Premier League remains unconfirmed for longer than it otherwise might have been. A failure to score in defeats to fellow newly promoted sides Brighton and Huddersfield, and to Burnley and Bournemouth, doesn’t bode well.
None of Newcastle’s forward options have ever scored more than 10 goals in a season in a top-five European league, while too much of the team’s creative burden appears to fall on winger Matt Ritchie. Benitez was reported to be unhappy with the club’s summer transfer dealings and a new striker will surely be top of his wish list during the January window. There is even talk of him again linking up with ex-Liverpool striker Fernando Torres.
So while Newcastle probably have the necessary defensive smarts to frustrate United at least partially, it is doubtful whether they carry enough of an offensive threat to be considered viable victors. It may take a while to come but once United get their noses in front, they can be expected to go on from there to take the points.
Our Preview’s Man Utd v Newcastle Betting Tips Verdict
Having perused the available betting odds from the best of the bookmaker fraternity, these are the tips of this preview:
- Back Manchester United to win in a match featuring under 2.5 goals @ 2/1 with Ladbrokes.
- Bet on the first goal to be scored after the 27th minute @ evens with Paddy Power.
Compare Man Utd v Newcastle Outright Winner Match Betting Odds