Tuesday’s draw at home in the Champions League against Benfica was an extremely disappointing result for Manchester United, for multiple obvious reasons, but it must be forgotten quickly, as United welcome Newcastle to Old Trafford in a battle between the Premier League‘s second and fourth-placed sides. Newcastle have been one of the Premier League’s biggest surprises thus far, but United will be looking to hand them a second straight defeat after an 11-match unbeaten run, and with it, close the gap on City to two points for at least 24 hours.
Last season, United picked up four of six points against Newcastle. United opened the season at home against the Magpies and strolled to a 3-0 win, thanks to goals from Dimitar Berbatov, Darren Fletcher, and Ryan Giggs.
Then, in April, Newcastle held United to a 0-0 draw at St. James’ Park, with both sides spurning their share of chances.
United are unbeaten in their last 18 matches against Newcastle since a 4-3 away defeat in September 2001, and United are unbeaten at home against Newcastle since a 2-0 defeat in February 1972.
Three things of note about Newcastle:
1. Going into last weekend’s 3-1 defeat at City, they had the league’s best defensive mark by themselves. They still do, with only 11 goals allowed in 13 matches, but they’re now tied with City and Liverpool, with United not far behind with only 12 allowed.
2. Their main threat in attack is Demba Ba, who has eight of their 18 league goals. It’s worth noting that six of them have come in two games, as he had hat tricks against Blackburn and Stoke.
3. Newcastle have scored a goal in five of their six away matches this season.
Three things of note about United:
1. Thank heavens for Nemanja Vidic. Would the same errors that led to Benfica’s two goals on Tuesday night, most notably the second one, have occurred with him in the middle?
2. Wayne Rooney is fit again after missing the Benfica match. United were more vibrant in attack against Benfica than they had been recently, so to carry that into this match and have him back in the mix should hopefully mean big things are in store today.
3. United have posted a clean sheet in five of their last seven home matches against Newcastle, and they come into this match with clean sheets in their last three Premier League matches. See #1 for why these things matter.
Newcastle appear to be better than they’ve been in some time, so this can’t be written off as an easy win, especially with how United haven’t been going the easy route lately.
But Tuesday’s result, along with the opportunity to narrow the gap on City, should spur the boys on to bring it today. And having Rooney and Vidic back in the mix only makes for a better United, a United that Newcastle, improved as they are, won’t be able to keep from the three points today.
Score Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Newcastle United
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