Newcastle take on Man United at St James' Park hoping to ease their relegation fears
Providing the Omicron variant stays away, Newcastle will begin their post-Christmas schedule looking for just their second win of the season, as Manchester United come to Tyneside for the only game of the day.
In the return fixture, Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford dominated the headlines, and he duly delivered what everyone was expecting, scoring twice in a 4-1 win. Despite the scoreline that afternoon, Man United’s performance left a lot to be desired, with Newcastle, then managed by Steve Bruce, having plenty of chances to take the lead before Ronaldo stole the show.
A lot has changed since that day, with both teams under new management. Eddie Howe has taken on the task of keeping the sinking ship afloat at St James’ Park, while Ralf Rangnick has been tasked with getting the Red Devils season back on track after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked.
Howe, rather predictably, has struggled so far at Newcastle but the signs of improvement are there to be seen. A nightmare run of fixtures eases after the visit of Ronaldo and co, and the former Bournemouth boss will be hoping to get some reinforcements in the transfer window when it opens next month to aid his battle against relegation.
In terms of what he’s got available for the immediate future, Howe actually doesn’t have too bad an injury list heading into this one. Federico Fernandez and Jamal Lewis are the most serious and won’t be back until mid-January at the earliest, and Paul Dummett trained for the first time this season in midweek but won’t feature until around the same time.
Isaac Hayden can’t play due to picking up his fifth booking of the season against Manchester City, and Jonjo Shelvey missed that game through injury and will be monitored closer to kick-off after missing training ever since. Both recognised right-backs at Newcastle, Javier Manquillo and Emil Krafth, have colds that Howe confirmed are not positive COVID cases, and decisions on their involvement will be made as close to the game as possible.
As for Man United, Paul Pogba remains the only definite absentee for the game, with a cluster of big names potentially returning for Rangnick. Aaron Wan-Bissaka could return to battle for the right-back position with Diogo Dalot, and Victor Lindelof is OK after coming off in their last Premier League game against Norwich way back on December 11th. Raphael Varane is also close to returning and may make the squad, and the same goes for Edinson Cavani.
Anthony Martial has had a knee injury but could also be involved, although with his future expected to lie elsewhere, more game time for Anthony Elanga may be a more likely occurance. Newcastle was actually mentioned as a possible destination for Martial in recent months, but the latest rumours suggest Sevilla are the most likely suitors for his signature in January.
History favours the Manchester side in this fixture, with them winning six of the last seven contests. Newcastle’s one win in that period did come at St James’ Park, when Matty Longstaff scored a memorable goal to take the points for the Geordies.
If that memorable result can be repeated on Sunday, Newcastle can move level on points with 17th-placed Watford, who have had their game against Wolves postponed. A win for Man United could see them overtake West Ham if David Moyes’ side drop points at home to Southampton on Boxing Day.
Newcastle United take on Manchester United on Sunday, December 27th. Kick-off is at 8pm.