If Newcastle want to be playing in the UEFA Champions League next season, then this feels like a must-win game. But can the Magpies end their winless run against Man Utd? Here’s our preview of Sunday’s big game, featuring the Opta Prediction.
Newcastle vs Manchester United: The Quick Hits
- Manchester United tighten their grip on a top four finish in the Premier League with victory against Newcastle on Sunday (36.8%).
- If Newcastle upset the supercomputer though (34.2%), the Red Devils could drop out of the top four if Spurs beat Everton on Monday.
- Will Marcus Rashford to fit enough to lead the United forward line?
It was 27 years ago that Newcastle surrendered a 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League table to hand Manchester United the title. Though the Magpies have soared close to the summit a few times since, it’s always felt as if the Red Devils have had somewhat of a hold over them since.
Man United have scored more Premier League goals against Newcastle (113) than any other opponent in the competition. And when you look at games just at St. James’ Park, their 14 wins away from the home are also the most they achieved against a single side away from Old Trafford.
It’s also the most Newcastle have lost at home against an opponent in the competition, whilst the 50 goals conceded on home soil are, as you would expect, the most they’ve shipped against one individual team.
But despite being winless in their last six Premier League games against Man Utd, the last two of those have been draws. So maybe the tide is turning, and they can hope to make it three games without defeat against the Red Devils for the first time since January 2012 (W1 D2).
If not, Erik ten Hag could become the fourth Manchester United manager to win his first away EPL game against Newcastle, joining the likes of David Moyes (2013-14), Louis van Gaal (2014-15) and Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer (2018-19).
It’s a victory that could prove vital for Manchester United in nailing down their hold on third place in the table. Defeat and Newcastle will move level on points, but crucially above the Red Devils on goal difference and left nervously looking at Tottenham’s game on Monday night against Everton to see if they’ll remain in the top four.
Manchester United 2-0 Newcastle (League Cup Final – 26 February 2023)
This will be the third time the two sides will have met this season with their most recent clash coming at Wembley Stadium as Erik ten Hag secured the first silverware of his reign at Old Trafford thanks to two goals in six minutes from Casemiro and Marcus Rashford.
A lot of the pre-match drama to that showpiece tie surrounded Nick Pope’s suspension, with Loris Karius being thrown into the deep end on his Newcastle United debut, although the Englishman should shake off the injury that forced him out of the recent England squad and be back between the sticks, like he was for their Premier League clash in October.
To show how fickle the world of football can be at times, Cristiano Ronaldo being replaced with 18 minutes remaining and his subsequent visual displeasure might have been the only highlight to take from that game – another draw here and it will be just the third time that both their Premier League meetings have ended level (1993-94 and 2015-16 the other two).
And if Newcastle and Pope can keep a clean sheet this time around, it’ll be the first time that Newcastle have done it in consecutive Premier League games against United since May 1997.
There’s a chance that may occur if recent performances are anything to go by. The international break probably coming at the perfect time for Ten Hag having seen his United side fail to score in their last two Premier League games – as many times as in their first 24 matches this season.
Man Utd have also had their struggles away from home, having lost 11 of their last 19 in the competition (W6 D2) with the most recent being the 7-0 defeat to Liverpool. That heavy loss has contributed to the Red Devils shipping 27 goals away from home so far this season, a tally only ‘bettered’ by Bournemouth (38), Nottingham Forest (32) and Leicester City (30). It looks likely they’ll break their own club record from the 1999-00 season (29) too.
With just three defeats in their last 28 Premier League matches (W14 D11), hopes are high for Eddie Howe’s side, especially having got back to winning ways with successive victories prior to the international break.
And we all know how much Ten Hag has looked forward to playing Newcastle this season, describing them previously as ‘annoying’ for their perceived time-wasting tactics. And when looking into this a little further – perhaps the Dutchman does have a slight point.
On average this season, Newcastle’s Premier League games have lasted 98 minutes and 58 seconds this season, which is the third highest in the division. However, the ball in play average is just 51 minutes and 41 seconds, the lowest in the competition this term. The difference would leave you with enough time, on average, to start and stop Bruce Springsteen’s classic album ‘Born in the USA’ each time the ball goes in and out of play and still have 18 seconds to spare.
Players to Watch
Newcastle United: The Strikers
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Eddie Howe’s selection dilemma’s ahead of the game will come from who he puts up top.
Alexander Isak appears to be the man with the golden touch right now, having scored three goals in his last two games as the injury woes that besieged his start to life in the Premier League appear to have subsided. A goal this time out and he will become just the third Swedish player to score in three or more appearances in the competition after Freddie Ljungberg (five in April 2002) and a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic (two runs of three in 2016).
Howe could also turn to either Allan Saint-Maximin, the last player to score against United following their back-to-back shutouts, or Callum Wilson to lead the forward line – even though the Englishman has only scored once in 10 Premier League appearances against the Red Devils and that came back in November 2018 whilst he was still at Bournemouth.
With Miguel Almiron working hard to recover from a thigh strain that Howe thought would leave the Paraguayan sidelined for this encounter – the Newcastle manager is going to hope that whoever he picks can deliver in their quest for UEFA Champions League football.
Manchester United: Marcus Rashford
Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room here. Yes, Marcus Rashford wasn’t part of England’s most recent squad, having to withdraw with a knock sustained in their FA Cup triumph over Fulham. Is he going to be fully fit for this game? Only he will know, but we suspect Erik ten Hag is going to want him involved in some way during this game.
Rashford has been involved in seven goals in his eight Premier League starts against Newcastle (four goals, three assists). That’s great but he has proved himself particularly decisive when he has struck in the Premier League this season.
No player has scored more winning goals in the competition than Rashford, with nine of his 14 strikes being the winner. The other two players to have netted nine winning goals this season – Erling Haaland and Harry Kane. Not bad company at all.
Newcastle vs Man United Prediction
The Opta supercomputer is torn in this tale of top four challengers, but it is predicting that Manchester United (36.8%) will emerge victorious against Newcastle (34.2%) at St. James’ Park on Sunday.
Man United have lost two of their last five Premier League visits, having lost just one of their previous 13 at St James’ Park, but this important victory is underlined by our season long prediction from the supercomputer.
Erik Ten Hag’s side are still the heavy favourites (73.9%) to secure a third-place finish in the standings, whilst the Magpies (29.6%) are favoured to see off the challenge of Tottenham Hotspur (19.0%), Liverpool (23.9%) and Brighton (11.0%) to claim the fourth and all-important final UEFA Champions League qualification place.