Steve Bruce must be very tempted to make several changes given how awful we were in that 5-0 mauling at Leicester last weekend – and it sounds like he’s going to.
There’ll be at least one enforced change, with Hayden starting his three-game ban, however the Daily Mail’s Craig Hope leaked some early team news last night, claiming Matty Longstaff look set for a surprise start, with Ciaran Clark also expected to replace Paul Dummett in defence.
With suspensions, form, injuries and this early team news in mind, here’s the side that could be set to start against Man Utd today:
(3-4-2-1): Dubravka – Schar, Lascelles, Clark – Yedlin, M.Longstaff, S.Longstaff, Willems – Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Joelinton:
Dummett was poor against Leicester (who wasn’t?!), but this move to bring in Clark for one of our most dependable defenders doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
As for Matty Longstaff, it’s Craig Hope’s understanding that the 19-year-old will make his first Premier League start alongside his brother Sean in midfield, suggesting Ki is not in favour and Shelvey isn’t fit enough to start.
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? Bruce seemed to think so in his press conference..
Out wide, I can see Saint-Maximin starting. It would be a risk, but Bruce said he was fit to start on Friday, saying ‘he’ll play’ when telling the press he’d trained all week. 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? The Ghanaian has been in better form, but Bruce seeneded adament he wouldn’t be dropping Almiron anytime soon before Leicester, so Atsu may drop out.
Up top, this could be an occasion made for Andy Carroll, but I highly 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.
What side do you see Bruce going with today? And what do you make of claims that Matty Longstaff and Ciaran Clark could be set to start?