Newcastle United v Manchester United – Premier League match preview

An evening kick-off at St James' Park.
Newcastle United host Manchester United this evening when Sir Alex Ferguson brings his Red Devils to St James’ Park.

A sell out crowd is expected as fans take advantage of the comforts of playing closer to home – a comfort that was once again denied to Newcastle courtesy of the curious fixture list and it’s tendency to have us on the road for the festive period.

Unfortunately I don’t think there is going to be much comfort throughout the game tonight. Optimists will point towards Manchester United’s ever-growing injury list, the defeat against Blackburn and Wayne Rooney’s antics over the Christmas period as reasons why we could sneak a result, but the reality is that we face a team that is yet to lose a Premier League away game this season. In fact they are the only top flight team to do so.


Gabriel Obertan injured his toe against Liverpool and rumours started circulating suggesting that the French wing wizard would be out for up to a month. However Alan Pardew has revealed that Obertan is in with a shout of playing against his former employers providing he can pass a fitness test.

Otherwise Pardew has a fully fit squad to choose from aside from the usual suspects of Steven Taylor, Sylvain Marveaux, Danny Guthrie and Peter Lovenkrands although the latter two are edging closer to a return to first-team action.

Manchester United

Alex Ferguson will be without the services of Nemanja Vidic, Ashley Young, Fabio, Tom Cleverley, Michael Owen and Jonny Evans for the trip to Tyneside while Chris Smalling only has an “outside chance” of returning to the team.

Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney are all poised to return to the starting line-up for Sir Alex Ferguson with Rooney having sat out the defeat against Blackburn after an alleged disciplinary issue involving himself and Darron Gibson with some absences from training.

Facts and Stats

Newcastle are one of only five sides who have take points off of Manchester United this season.

Alan Pardew has led his side to two draws in his last two games against the Red Devils.

Newcastle last beat Manchester United in 2001 edging a seven goal thriller 4-3. They’ve failed to register another victory in 19 attempts since.

Shola Ameobi is still looking for his 50th Premier League goal.

Newcastle have earned less points against Manchester United in the Premier League than any other team. Only 21 points have been won from a possible 105.

Thoughts and ponderings

Well where do we start? I guess we have to start by looking at the opposition. Don’t let the defeat to Blackburn fool you – they are still very very dangerous and will have some big hitters back in the side against us, namely Wayne Rooney who has a canny knack of finding the back of the net against us for a start.

Speaking of Rooney, there is a real danger that he will come back wanting to prove a point after his, ahem, alleged party shenanigans over the Christmas period. In fairness though there is an equal chance that he could flip the lid and do something reckless. Perhaps that is something worth slipping into the pre-match team-talk?

It won’t just be Rooney who will want to bounce back though. The whole Manchester United squad will want to avenge the defeat against Blackburn and get back to winning ways. Not just for pride, but also to keep track with big spending Manchester City who beat Liverpool last night.

However as much as I expect the Red Devils to be fired up for the match, I also expect Alan Pardew to have his side fired up for the game. They will want to show that they can perform after what can only be described as an abject performance at Anfield last time out. Players such as Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba will want to sign off with a win before they head away to the African Cup of Nations – a win that will restore some of the feel good factor that has gone missing in recent weeks.

It would be easy to say that we should go and attack Man Utd given that we are the home team, but the reality is that football just isn’t like that. Manchester United are better than us and have players who can hurt us in an instant. We’ll have to be more measured as a team and take our chances when they come along.

That shouldn’t be a problem providing the chances fall to Demba Ba, but beyond that we seem to be struggling to find the back of the net. This makes the formation we pick, and personnel to fit that formation, key for the game tomorrow. Put simply, is it time for Ben Arfa? Or, after Liverpool and our attacking impotence, do we plump for two strikers and play Leon Best up top with Ba?

I’d play a second striker alongside Demba Ba to be honest. We were spineless up front against Liverpool which led to pressure being put on our defence which is when the mistakes started to come into play. I know Best isn’t the, well, best, but I do think he can hold the ball up better than Shola which will come in handy against Wayne Rooney and Co.

Then we just need to sort the supply line, which is becoming a problem. Ever since Sylvain Marveaux got injured the performances of our wingers, BOTH wingers I’ll add, has been woeful. Neither look like creating too much and when they do it almost looks as though it’s a fluke rather than intentional. Perhaps this game will give Gabriel Obertan the impetus to prove his former employers, and a lot of fans of his current employers, wrong? Jonas will do his usual, and he’ll get the usual defence. He’ll earn us some free-kicks and work hard for the team but is that all we want from an attacking winger? I’d say no and it’s time for him to show why he earned that new contract of his!

I’m not too fussed about the middle of the park. Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote are our strongest midfield pairing on paper and if they both turn up they can match any other central midfield pairing in the league in my view. That just leaves the defence who will need to be disciplined for the whole match, especially the full backs. I’d be tempted to play Davide Santon instead of Ryan Taylor who looked ropey to say the least at Anfield.

Final thought

So what can we hope for tonight? Well obviously a win is the ultimate and a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world neither. Most importantly though I’m looking for the performance to be up there. There is no place to hide at St James’ Park and the players will be urged on to give their all by the fans. The atmosphere will be electric, as it always seems to be at night at the Cathedral on the Hill, and Sky will be there to catch the lot so the players will have a truly worldwide audience to perform to.

We’ll need some luck along the way – not many teams outplay Man Utd in fairness – but I don’t think we can turn to the referee for a helping hand. Howard Webb takes charge of the game so we’re already a big decision down as, inevitably, most things will go the way of the United in red.

That is something we’ll have to overcome if we are to get anything from this game.

Howay the lads!

Date: Wednesday, 4th January, 2012

Time: 20:00

Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle

About toonsy

A lifelong Newcastle fan and current webmaster of this very 'blog who has the sole aim of creating a place by Newcastle United fans, for Newcastle United fans.

56 thoughts on “Newcastle United v Manchester United – Premier League match preview

  1. if i am not wrong,Ryan taylor will be playing obertan position if obertan fails to clear fitness test.

    And then our Right side is doom. πŸ˜†


  2. Can only see us getting hammered tonight, spirit of first 11 games seems to have gone πŸ™
    Still, footballs a funny old game so going to predict a 3-1 win
    HBA has been pretty **** thus far so bit surprised people keep banging on about him starting, we won’t see best of him until next season in my opinion ….. Presuming he’s still here


  3. I’m with SteveP

    Barfa still looks woeful for large parts of the game. He has to show more than he has to justify a starting place surely.


  4. For me Benny has appeared at his best when coming off the bench. He’s been woeful when starting and looks lost. Until he sorts that out he should stay on the bench imo.


  5. Evil Franky… i may have this wrong as your comment didn’t name anyone but it seems you think HBA was the reason we drew at Man Ure 1-1?

    I think he played an extremely small part as the penalty he ‘won’ wasn’t a penalty at all and I think we drew that game down to our steely defense.

    Feel free to shoot me down if i’ve got the wrong end of the stick πŸ˜‰


  6. I think he knows that and so does Pards, hence starting Vuckic last time out. Probably the worst possible time to face Manure after their loss the other day and Rooney all rested and determined to prove a point… I’m not going to write our boys off but they will be severely tested and need a top of the line performance if they are going to get anything at all from the game.

    Good preview Toonsy πŸ™‚


  7. when HBA came on against liverpool he was absolutley forgettable. Nothing he did sticks in my mind. At the same time though he a a brillinat game agaist Bolton.

    He’s just been interviewed saying that Pardew’s tactics of direct football don’t suit him and he prefers a shirt ‘pass and move’ game. If he gets to play this short pass game with obertan this is where they can both excel, we’ve seen gabby and obertan open up defenses before with their short passing so I think Pardew needs to be less rigid in his tactics.


  8. I remember Pards telling us when he took over that he would turn us into a footballing side.

    I think he’s tried and improved it slightly in those terms but as Barfa says, I don’t see a great deal of evidence of it. 😯


  9. Ben Arfa had an impact in the man utd/man city matches and then got hooked against chelsea and hasnt started since, Totally unfair he will never get it back unless he is given a run in the side and a bit of leeway considering how long he was injured for.

    Its not like the alternatives are pulling up trees is it bests been dog****e and sholas been shola…


  10. Houston, we have a problem!

    HBA saying that Pardews style of play is direct and that’s probably why he’s not in the team isn’t a good sign.


  11. Agree with cc ,imo it has to be arfa or vuctic (youth) basically our other forwards are over the hill (lovenkrands) or poor (best) or both (shola) football has won us some games let’s try keep playing it !


  12. For me the question that AP is trying to resolve is, Is Ba a front man that HBA can work behind? or is Ba better off with a big man like Best who holds up for him? in otherwords Ba off Best or HBA off Ba. Which role suits Ba best is what is best for the team. Following on from that does the back man eg HBA and Cabaye moving forward get in each others way? Answers on a postcard please.


  13. Think we will struggle tonight 0-2 rooney typically to get brace as he will be fired up.
    Not sure we can win this especially with ferdinand rooney, giggs and smalling all potentially back.
    Worried about those sodding mackems though


  14. Benny’s right about the tactics. In Pardew’s favoured 811 system he’s fighting for the ball on the half way line instead of threatening around the penalty area. What a waste of talent. If Pardew can’t get the best out of a player like that he should move on.


  15. I have to agree with benny im afraid but i do believe that pardew is simply playing to the players strengths really. Best needs the ball in the air and Ba can cope with it too.
    Its a shame marveux is out as him, cabaye, HBA, guthrie, tiote etc would play nice football.
    If we wanted a team of slick passing I would want to see us line up like this;

    Simpson, Willo, Colo, Santon
    Abeid, Tiote
    HBA, Cabaye, Vuckic,


  16. georgio says:
    January 4, 2012 at 10:54
    Benny’s right about the tactics. In Pardew’s favoured 811 system he’s fighting for the ball on the half way line instead of threatening around the penalty area. What a waste of talent. If Pardew can’t get the best out of a player like that he should move on.

    Who should move on? Pardew or Ben Arfa?


  17. Well seeing as our wingers cant cross it could be beneficial to alter the strategy a bit, and play shorter passes with alot of movement. Guti and Obertan are good passers and have good touch so it could work.

    But dunno what Ben Arfa has been told when he signed since he doesnt share Pardews tactics??? Obviously they must have talked before signing?? Maybe Ben Arfa just has to sit tight till now when Ba is off, surely then he will be in the starting XI.


  18. Well what do you expect he comes on at bolton we start playing a bit football then the next match vuckic gets the start. I’m not sure with him but Cabaye was promised we would play football the right way can’t imagine them being impressed now we’re on the slide and getting desperate punting the ball up front


  19. I’d just like to say that sitting at 7th i still feel pretty good about this season! Lets not get carried away and just be glad we’re not in a relegation scrap. When you consider what the manager has to work with in that board, mid table is good.
    A draw would be a great result at the moment. With regards to HBA im not one bit surprised he’s unhappy. He is a ‘stormy’ character. Just look at the conditions under which he left his last club. A few dummy spits should not surprise anyone


  20. Hitman – has Benny really spat the dummy though, or is it mainly the journalists who are stirring things up? First of all we had Steve Brenner writing in the Sun saying that Ben Arfa is FURIOUS about the way things are at the moment, which is a complete misrepresentation of what the lad actually said, and now we’ve got the ESPN staff jumping on the bandwagon saying that he’s questioning Pardew’s tactics. Once again that’s a misrepresentation. He hasn’t said that he thinks Pardew’s tactics are wrong. All he’s said is that those particular tactics don’t suit him personally, and you can’t blame him for that.


  21. Agreed @31. Nothing better than journos sh*t stirring and then us lot on here adding wood to the fire! No one knows what the hell goes on on the training ground or in the dressing room. Lets just get behind the team and get a result tonight. HWTL :mrgreen:


  22. Liam – good shout. That’s pretty much the team I would pick although I’d go 433.
    Don’t think Benny’s spitting out dummies. He just wants to play. This long slow intro into the team is wasting a lot of time. Put him in and leave it for a while. If then it doesn’t work out then maybe he’ll have to seek new pastures. I’d hate to see that.


  23. Even if I hate Sunderland, I have to admitt that Martin O’neill is a Genious! Far Better Than Pardew!!! I would love to see that starting 11 one time:
    Simpson or Raylor Saylor Colo Santon
    Cabaye TiotΓ© Guthrie
    Ben Arfa Shane Fergie
    Demba Ba


  24. Hitman – I doubt Benny went moaning anywhere. I doubt he phoned the Sun up and started pouring his heart out. He’ll have been asked questions about it and will have responded to them. This is what journalists do. They then twist it to sell papers and garner interest. Benny appears neither “furious” or “critical” that the reports claim…


  25. this seems like moaning to me like.

    HBA : “I have ambitions. I’m ambitious for Newcastle, for the fans. If the club matches my ambitions, no problems.”

    “When I see fans in the street, they always ask me why I am not playing. I respond it’s not my decision. I scored at Bolton but then was still on the bench for the next game.


  26. That’s an interesting point Hitman. I don’t know how these things work – could Benny have contacted the journo because he wanted to go public and get a few things off his chest, or is it more likely that the journo requested the interview and Benny agreed, without knowing what questions were going to be asked?


  27. toonsy i agree the papers are twisting it.
    but you carnt blame benny for what he has says,the lad is being overlooked by pards,mybe pards is just being careful with benny or there might be somthing else.only pards knows


  28. Barfa hasn’t looked great whenever we play hoofball. He is constantly trying to bring the ball from his own half because if he doesn’t then no one will play it along the ground for him. I thought he had decent although not spectacular games against both Manc clubs and then against Bolton…then dropped for the Liverpool match after scoring and changing the game against Bolton. It’s a disgraceful waste of talent. If we aren’t going to play on the ground football then we would be better swapping him with Liverpool for Judas…he would slot in there and Judas would be perfect for the way we are playing at the minute.

    So **** it wasn’t a penalty against Man Utd, it was the fact he was drawing defenders into making last ditch tackles in the oppositions box because of his pace and trickery.


  29. Nobby – Pretty sure we would have lost 1-0 because I don’t remember anyone else giving us the opportunity to level to 1-1?…nope i’m pretty sure it was Barfa who drew a lucky penalty πŸ˜‰


  30. Hitman – He’ll put a transfer request in during the summer if he doesn’t get a run during the 2nd half of this season. And I have a feeling Pardew just doesn’t like him for some reason.


  31. Talking of howard webb being their 12th man, did you see that picture on worky’s blog? I don’t like promoting the opposition, but it’s worth a look πŸ˜†


  32. I still don’t understand why Jonas never gets an opportunity to play in the right. He’s more comfortable on his right foot, surely that means he’d get better crosses in from that side(?)

    …yeah I know he USED to link up well with Enrique, and was good at helping out Raylor in his defensive duties, but to me that’s always highlighted a problem at LB, not Jonas’s crossing ability.

    If Santon eventually nails down a starting berth at LB, I’d like to see Jonas RW.


  33. Barfa does not sound like a happy bunny and neither should he be when we’re scrabbling round for anyone to play in a black and white shirt at times and he gets minimal time on the pitch then ends up with a crick in his neck watching the ball sail by. What happened to some of our nice passing footie, we seem to have gone to pieces. At Liverpool they were all treating the ball like it was infected and couldnt wait to hoof it somewhere. This is where Pards has to earn his money


  34. Rod – I completely agree. I think giving Jonas a start in front of Simpson would be a chance worth taking and dropping Obertan. If we stick with 4-4-2 I’d like to see Arfa on the left in front of Santon. Ba and Best upfront.


  35. Franky, that would suit me mate. Got to be worth a try eh.

    I can’t see it though, Pardew seems like a creature of habit when it comes to starting positions. He rarely shuffles the pack unless he really needs to.

    I don’t think Vuckic had a particularly good game against Liverpool, so for tonight (if fit) I’d like to see:

    Simpson – Colo – Williamson – Santon
    Jonas – Cabaye – Tiote – Barfa
    Best – Ba

    Jonas and Simpson should be able to deal with Giggs, and Santon will have a tricky customer on his hands with Valencia, but that’s what I’d go with.

    We’ll see, I guess…


  36. Rod – I felt sorry for Vuckic against Liverpool like. It was far too big an occasion for that young lad, still baffles me why Barfa didn’t play in that role…after his match winning performance against Bolton.

    Agree about that line up as well, I think if they are playing Giggs and Evra on their left then both Jonas and Simmo have enough pace at least to have them under constant pressure.

    Who will be playing down their right? Valencia and…?


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