High flying Manchester United welcome Newcastle United on the Boxing Day looking to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League.
The Red Devils were held by 10-men Aston Villa during the weekend, thus ending their six match winning streak. Despite the draw, they managed to maintain the third spot in the table. The draw meant Louis van Gaal’s charges are now unbeaten the last twelve matches.
The Magpies on the other hand suffered a home defeat in the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland, which was their fourth consecutive defeat in this particular fixture. Adam Johnson’s 90th minute winner condemned Alan Pardews’ men to their third defeat of the month.
Manchester United are booming with confidence, with the results and the league table reflecting their brilliant run after a poor start to the campaign under new manager Louis van Gaal. United couldn’t break down a resilient Villa side, who were reduced to 10-men after Gabriel Agbonlahor was wrongly sent off for what looked like a reckless challenge on former Villain Ashley Young. Radamel Falcao cancelled out Christian Benteke’s wonder strike, scoring his second goal of the season, but could not rescue all three points for his side.
The biggest boost for the Manchester side comes in the form of Angel Di Maria, who returned to the side, replacing Robin van Persie in the 61st minute. The Argentine suffered a minor hamstring tear in the 3-0 home win against Hull City, consequently missing his sides’ last three games. His return to the first team provides Louis van Gaal with strength in depth for the upcoming busy festive period.
Newcastle had a torrid start to the season, winning just 10 points out of the possible 27. The results caused a fury amongst the supporters against the hierarchy, calling for the sacking of Alan Pardew. A turn of events in the month of November, winning four matches on the trot starting with a home win against Liverpool saw the same fans rescind their resentment, and back the former Southampton manager.
Although the Tyneside have lost their momentum in recent games, they will be looking to bounce back from their derby humiliation. The fact that their Friday’s opponents have lost just one game out of 20 played on the Boxing Day will be a worrying fact for Pardew’s men.
Manchester United have been improving on the injury front with every passing week. Although Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and more recently Marouane Fellaini are not expected to feature against The Toons, Chris Smalling may return according to manager Louis van Gaal. The aforementioned return of Angel Di Maria has reduced the injury list that has troubled the Red Devils throughout the season.
Newcastle United meanwhile are still without first team goalkeepers Tim Krul and Rob Elliot. Influential midfielder Cheick Tiote will be unavailable through suspension after picking a yellow against Sunderland, while Siem de Jong, Rolando Aarons, Gabriel Obertan and Ryan Taylor remain long term absentees. Jonas Gutierrez, whose first team appearance was in April on loan to Norwich, made a comeback, overcoming testicular cancer in Newcastle’s U-21 fixture against West Ham.
Possible XIs :
Manchester Utd : (3-4-1-2) De Gea; Jones, Evans, Blackett; Valencia, Carrick, Di Maria, Young; Rooney; van Persie, Falcao.
Newcastle Utd : (4-2-3-1) Alnwick; Janmaat, Coloccini, Dummet, Haïdara; Colback, Sissoko; Cabella, Ayoze, Sa. Ameobi; Gouffran.
Sir Alex Ferguson has been praising Louis van Gaal, and the elated Dutchman said, “He shows a lot of confidence & belief in me as manager of Manchester United. I’m very happy.”
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew meanwhile has emphasized possession as an important factor if his side are to cause a furor at Old Trafford. He said, “One of the reasons we have done well there is we have retained possession well, and that’s something we are going to have to do because you can’t turn possession over to Manchester United with the quality they have got up front. They are on a great run, and it’s a game that every time you play them, you have to look forward to it.”
- Robin van Persie has scored six goals and assisted three more in his last eight Premier League starts against Newcastle.
- Manchester United have won the last 10 games on Boxing Day.
- Manchester United last played Newcastle on Boxing Day two seasons ago, winning 4-3.
- Newcastle are the only team in the Premier League who are yet to score in the opening 30 minutes.
Prediction : Man Utd 3-1 Newcastle