This weekend we face a Man Utd side who are in a complete and utter mess. It’ll be under the lights at St James’ Park and gives us the perfect opportunity to bounce back after last weekend’s embarrassment – yet I can’t say I’m remotely confident.
I expected to lose against Leicester, with them being the one side outside the ‘big six’ who look capable of breaking the mould this year, but the performance from all involved was worrying on so many levels.
There was no fight, no organisation, no quality on display and no leadership. We completely crumbled and are going to have to be MUCH better this weekend if we’re to respond with a win – and that’s saying something given how bad this Man Utd side have looked of late.
They’ve not won in 10 away games. They’ve kept a clean sheet in just one of them. It’s their worst run for 30 years and they’re currently 10th in the league with Solksjaer under huge pressure from their frustrated fans.
It’s time for both Bruce and the players to step up and get at them. After all, if we roll over against this Man Utd side and can’t get at them, it’ll be hugely concerning.
Bruce must be very tempted to make several changes given how awful just about everyone was in that 5-0 mauling at Leicester.
A few of Carroll, Saint-Maximin, Ki, Yedlin, Manquillo and Fernandez could all feature, but there’ll be a few enforced changes, with Hayden suspended and Shelvey likely to make the bench at best.
At the back, I believe Federico Fernandez deserves his chance, but I’d be surprised if Bruce dropped Dummett, his captain (Lascelles) or our best ball player (Schar) – who’s often our top creator at St James’ Park!
At wing-back, I don’t think Krafth will keep his place, meaning it’ll be between Manquillo and Yedlin. I’d prefer to see the latter, but is he fit enough to start after only recently returning to training?
In midfield, it seems to be between Ki and Matty Longstaff to partner Sean Longstaff in midfield. Hayden starts his three-game ban and Shelvey seems far more likely to be on the bench than in the starting 11 after only just recovering from a hamstring strain.
Out wide, I can see Saint-Maximin starting. It would be a risk, but Bruce said he was fit to start on Friday. We need an injection of life in attacking areas and he could give us exactly that – not to mention that fact this Man Utd side is there to be got at. The question is, does he replace Atsu or Almiron? Or does Bruce find a way to fit in all three?
Up top, this could be an occasion made for Andy Carroll, but I doubt he’ll be thrown in from the start just yet, meaning Joelinton could well be handed another chance to bag his first goal at St James’ Park. He needs one, but he needs far more support up top and MUCH better service if we’re to get the best out of our £40m man.
Preferred NUFC XI – (3-4-2-1) – Dubravka – Schar, Fernandez, Dummett – Yedlin, Ki, Longstaff, Willems – Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Joelinton.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in Ole Gunner Solksjaer’s Man Utd side:
Marucs Rashford – Bags of pace and plenty talent to terrorise defences on his day, but his finishing has left a lot to be desired recently. Let’s hope we can keep him quiet once again, as he looks set to be Man Utd’s most likely attacker with Martial and Pogba out.
Daniel James – Another speed demon who has looked pretty good since making a summer move from Swansea. He’s got plenty of energy and a good right foot, with the winger currently their joint top scorer after 3 goals in 7 Premier League games.
David De Gea – He’s made plenty mistakes over the past few years, but the Spaniard is still a top class goalkeeper who looks unbeatable on his day.
Mason Greenwood – With Martial and Lingard expected to miss out, the highly-rate 18-year-old could be in line for a rare start here. He looks a huge talent and such a natural finisher, so must not be underestimated.
Predicted Man Utd XI – De Gea – Tuanzebe, Maguire, Lindelof, Young – McTominay, Pereira – Greenwood, Mata, James – Rashford.
Dwight Gayle and Jonjo Shelvey could make surprise returns to the squad, while both Allan Saint-Maximin and Jetro Willems have been deemed ‘fit to start’
Matt Ritchie will miss out once again and the game also comes too soon for Florian Lejeune, with Isaac Hayden also missing as he starts his three-match suspension.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer could have FIVE first-team players missing, with Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bisaka, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw all major doubts.
I don’t quite know what to think ahead of this one.
It’s been hard to see where our next win is coming from based on our last two performances, with us looking toothless at one end and all at sea at the other, but you can’t help but think this MIGHT just be our moment to steady the ship and secure our first home win of the season.
My heart says we’ll respond with a big win, my head fears we’ll lose – so I’ll go for a draw!
Prediction: Newcastle 1-1 Man Utd
Howay the lads!