Newcastle will hope to begin the New Year on a high by repeating last season’s victory at home to Manchester United when they meet at St James’ Park on Wednesday (20:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Matt Ritchie scored the solitary goal in that February triumph as part of a second half of the season that saw Newcastle rise from the lower reaches of the table to finish 10th in the Premier League. In a similar situation this time out, another win would be most welcome.
Newcastle pushed United close at Old Trafford in October, going in two goals up at the interval only for their hosts to fight back to win 3-2 following a second half in which Newcastle had opportunities to add to their score. It was a familiar story for Rafael Benitez’s side, with solid structure and attacking patterns marred by a lack of quality in the final third.
The Magpies were one of only two Premier League clubs to make a profit in the summer transfer market. They have been the league’s lowest net spenders since returning to the top flight at the start of last season. Frustrated with the lack of investment from owner Mike Ashley, Benitez has said that it will be a “miracle” if Newcastle avoid relegation.
That is perhaps a little overstated. Huddersfield are adrift at the bottom and unlikely to recover. That leaves Newcastle as part of a pack of six teams, separated by just five points, seeking to avoid finishing in the other two relegation places. While they have their limitations, the bookies’ opinion that Burnley, Fulham and Cardiff are more likely demotion candidates seems fair.
Benitez was pleased with the overall performance but nevertheless annoyed to see his side give up a late equaliser away at Watford on Saturday. It was a fairly even match that Newcastle led following Salomon Rondon’s strike on the half hour, only for Watford to bring things level inside the final 10 minutes. It felt like two points dropped in a Christmas schedule that has so far only yielded two points from three matches.
Wednesday’s opponents have enjoyed a much more fruitful festive period. Manchester United have won three out of three under the stewardship of interim coach Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, scoring 12 and conceding just three. Released from Jose Mourinho’s shackles, they have been free-scoring in wins over Cardiff, Huddersfield and Bournemouth.
Paul Pogba was in prime form in Sunday’s 4-1 thrashing of Bournemouth. Benched towards the end of Mourinho’s reign following a series of disagreements, he scored twice as Man Utd raced into a three-goal lead. Marcus Rashford scored the other and then provided the assist for Romelu Lukaku’s goal that put the result beyond doubt with 20 minutes to play.
The manner in which United have performed following Mourinho’s departure has been impressive enough to wonder just how their season might have played out had the decision to fire him been made earlier. There were rumours of a sacking around the time of the home game against Newcastle. Between then and the defeat to Liverpool that brought his time at the helm to a close, Man Utd secured just three wins, alongside four draws and two defeats.
Yet while it is clear that United are playing with more confidence and freedom under the calmer hand of Solksjaer, victories over two teams mired in the lower reaches of the table and a Bournemouth side who had lost seven of their previous nine matches proves little in terms of whether or not they will be a demonstrably better side from hereon-out.
Man Utd could conceivably reel in an Arsenal side starting to level out after a better than expected start to the season, but eight points still separate them from the top four. It would take an incredibly good run of results and some slip-ups elsewhere for them to close that sort of gap. There is at least now some optimism that United might be able to do their part.
Our Preview’s Newcastle vs Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
Recent matches between the sides suggest Newcastle will give Man Utd a good game on Wednesday. The difference in the quality between the two attacks means that while both teams will likely have chances, it is United who should be favoured to come out on top in a relatively high-scoring encounter.
- Bet on Manchester United to win in a match featuring over 2.5 goals @ best odds of 11/8 with BoyleSports.