After a last gap defeat last time out, Newcastle face a daunting trip to Old Trafford to take on Jose Mourinho’s side, who themselves will be desperate to get their own league form back on track.
We go into this one with some untimely injury concerns however, with three key players set to be missing for our trip to Manchester.
Midfield maestro Mikel Merino is out with a back injury, Atsu is major doubt after aggravating a thigh injury on international duty and likewise Jamaal Lascelles, who also looks likely miss out after struggling to overcome the knock against Bournemouth.
So will injuries mean Rafa again tweaks his formation after going with 4-4-2 last time out? Let’s analyse some potential team line ups.
Elliot – Mbemba, Lejeune, Clark – Yedlin, Hayden, Shelvey, Manquillo – Ritchie, Perez – Joselu
This formation has been used very successfully by teams like Chelsea, as switching to this system helping them towards the title last year. It would certain be a surprise to Mourinho though, but a possible risk to experiment with something so new at a place like Old Trafford?
We would have three centre halves, with the capable attacking full backs Yedlin and Manquillo just ahead of them almost making up a midfield four with Shelvey and Hayden. It would give Ritchie and Perez more licence to roam from their usual slots to then try and get forward and support Joselu on the break. It would be interesting to see, however it seems a risk Rafa is unlikely to take.
Paddy Power have us down at 12/1 to win on Saturday (see here to download the Paddy Power app), highlighting the uphill task we clearly face if we want to come away with three points from this one, however you have to have that added bit of optimism that we could get something from the game when Rafa Benitez is involved.
Elliot – Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Mbemba, Ritchie – Hayden, Shelvey, Diame – Gayle, Joselu
A formation that seems to be in vogue with lots of teams at the moment, with a good example of it being used to great effect being Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur. We of course don’t have anywhere near the personnel of Spurs, but with two of our more creative players in Merino and Atsu missing, beefing up the defence but having two up top may cause Man United problems at both ends?
Big calls would then need to be made up front, at full back and in midfield as the rest of the side almost picks itself.
If Atsu doesn't play at Man United, Rafa could have a big decision to make formation wise. If he doesn't believe Aarons or Murphy is ready to start, could he play wing-backs instead? #nufc
— Chris Waugh (@ChrisDHWaugh) November 10, 2017
This formation would be an interesting change of role for Matt Ritchie, with a role at left wing back something he has not tried at NUFC. The industrious left-footed winger did start his career at Portsmouth at left back and his outstanding work rate is clear, so it may just suit him?
This formation would mean two up front and with Mitrovic thoroughly left out in the cold, it would likely mean continuing with a partnership of Gayle and Joselu – as we saw in the Bournemouth game. With Merino out but three in midfield in this system, Diame or Saivet would be the two options to take his place alongside Hayden and Shelvey.
Elliot – Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Manquillo – Hayden, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Aarons – Joselu
A formation usually adopted by Benitez and what he is likely to revert to. Playing 4-4-2, we were a bit too open against Bournemouth despite a good first half display. This system hasn’t always helped us offensively, but it’s a more solid formation that has tended to make us difficult to beat.
Clark would come in for Lascelles and Perez perhaps resort to the number ten role due to his work rate that is likely to be favoured by Benitez in a game we’ll have so little of the ball in.
With Atsu a doubt, Rolando Aarons might well get the first team chance he was talking about the other day. Murphy on the left an option, but he's looking so short of confidence that it might be difficult.
— Mark Douglas (@MsiDouglas) November 10, 2017
The big call is who to replace Atsu and although I would love to see Aarons given a run in the side, this could be the chance for Jacob Murphy has been waiting for. He has been disappointing so far but he won’t get many better chances than now to finally begin to claim a stake in the starting XI. Given the way he’s looked like a rabbit in the headlights on the odd occasion he’s came on, I’m wondering if Rafa may hand Aarons a surprise start?
Let us know your thoughts. What team and formation would you like to see this weekend with Lascelles, Merino and Atsu all likely to be missing?