Wednesday 2 January 2019

Match preview: Newcastle v Man Utd

2019 promises to be a year of change for these two famous football Uniteds both on and off the field. Or does it? If we keep winning under 'caretaker' manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer...

Solskjaer scored four Premier League goals and played in some comprehensive wins against Newcastle - but it wasn't all sunshine and roses when meeting the Magpies.
His only Premier League red card came against them (for scything down Rob Lee at Old Trafford in 1998), and he started in the famous in October 1996.
Summoning up the spirit of Philippe Albert and co is surely beyond Newcastle 22-plus years on, and just becoming the first team to stop Solskjaer's Red Devils from winning would be a fine achievement.
Magpies manager Rafael Benitez has continued to keep the cash strapped club punching above their weight , insisting it would "be a miracle" if he kept them up in the Premier League for the second season in a row. A near-miraculous tenth placed finish last term - their first back in the top flight - only proved what a great job Benitez has done under difficult circumstances.
United thumped Solskjaer’s former club Cardiff City 5-1 in his only away game in charge so far, before recording equally comfortable wins over Huddersfield Town (3-1) and Bournemouth (4-1) at Old Trafford.
Much like Cardiff and Huddersfield, Newcastle are embroiled in the battle to avoid relegation but have made life tough for top-half teams already this season on Tyneside – running Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal close in narrow 2-1 defeats.

The Toon are one of a cluster of clubs hovering in and around the dreaded drop, as they sit three places and three points clear of trouble heading into the first match of the New Year. However, with the partisan crowd in full force, Newcastle will be intent to cause problems at a ground where United lost last season.

Benitez - November's Premier League manager of the month after three straight wins - will be slightly upset his side only managed a point against Watford. Rafa will set his team up to stop the visitors, but they win very few games at home.It's not in Benitez's DNA to 'have a go'. He'll want our United to find a way to try to unlock his team.

Benitez said: “We have to be realistic and understand that we will be in the bottom half during the whole season.
“For me, it is almost clear and if we can be better than three teams, it will be another miracle."

Newcastle defender Federico Fernandez suffered a hip injury at Watford and will be assessed, while Ciaran Clark remains a doubt with an ankle problem.
Ki Sung-yeung is away at the Asian Cup but Jonjo Shelvey made his return from injury as a substitute at the weekend.

 United forward Alexis Sanchez has recovered from a hamstring injury and will be involved for the first time since 24 November. He was the man to inspire United's climb off the canvas in our thrilling 3-2 win in October's reverse tie, heading the 90th-minute winner after the Reds had been 0-2 down early on at Old Trafford.
Eric Bailly is suspended, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo remain out but Marcus Rashford should be fit despite limping off against Bournemouth.

The in-form Reds will be looking to record a fourth successive Premier League win under Solskjaer's stewardship as caretaker manager, when up against Newcastle United this evening (Wednesday).
The team travel to St. James’ Park for our first match of 2019 in confident mood and Ole is looking forward to seeing what can be achieved in the months ahead: I’ve got to say, going into the new year the way I've done, I've never done before, I'm so excited about the new year,” the Norwegian told MUTV.
 I'm just going to enjoy my time here now. Working with players of this quality, when you're a coach or a manager, you think 'this will be enjoyable.

Form guide: Newcastle D L W D L D Man Utd W L L W W W
Match odds: Newcastle 11/2 Draw 16/5 Man Utd 4/7 (all odds courtesy of bet365)
Referee: Andre Marriner (west Midlands)

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