With six games to go, and a six point advantage at the top of the table, United aim to get back to winning ways on Tuesday night, travelling to St James’ Park to play Newcastle United.
After a gut wrenching defeat at the hands of Manchester City in the semi final of the cup at the weekend, the blow was softened somewhat by the dramatic 1-1 draw in the Premiership between Arsenal and Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium the following day.
With league title number 19 looking ever more likely week by week, victory over the Toon Army will have a massive psychological affect on both our players, and Arsene Wenger’s side as a 9 point gap could be opened up.
There’s only one United…
With Wayne Rooney back, he’ll be itching to come straight back in to the side, and may come in in place of leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov. Berbatov was substituted against City in the semi final, a game which saw him pop a chance over the bar from yards out when it was the old clichéd ‘easier to score’ moment.
Anderson could come back in to a midfield that will be missing Paul Scholes through suspension, and Michael Carrick could be rested. Ji Sung Park could partner Anderson, although Darron Gibson may be due a start for the reds.
The trend of resting Rio Ferdinand for certain games to nurse him back to full fitness might mean the impressive Chris Smalling starts next to Nemanja Vidic, in what might be the only change to the defensive line up for this one.
Scanning the barcodes…
The Magpies lie in 10th place, one place higher than they were when they sacked Chris Hughton earlier in the season. They are 6 points from relegation and eight points from a Europa League spot. Quite what the target for Hughton was in his first season as manager since leading Newcastle back in to the Premier League is unclear – however the appointment of Alan Pardew didn’t inspire the Newcastle fans too much, and 10th place would be acceptable to most as their level at this moment in time.
Talking about the fans, Sir Alex has come out and said that the crowd at St James’ Park can be the difference for the home side. For me, the crowd at St James’ Park are a mysterious bunch. They can be loud an vociferous – a brilliant 12th man at times. But often the self proclaimed “Best supporters in the world” are the first to boo players off the field at half time (even if they’re drawing), leave the ground early if they aren’t winning, stage protests against anything they don’t like, and generally be a disadvantage for their own. The many fans who left the ground before half time in their home game against Arsenal this season were rightly shown up by their team who went on to dramatically force a 4-4 draw by the end of the game in what was one of the best Premiership come backs since the league formed in 1992.
And that’s what Newcastle United are capable of when they want to rise to that level. And that’s something we need to be careful of, especially when a lot of our away points have been earned through being efficient this season, rather than bossing and controlling games.
However, Newcastle will be without influential attacking midfielder, and top goalscorer Kevin Nolan who misses this game through suspension, and Shola Ameobi and ‘keeper Steve Harper are both doubtful. This leaves them dry in front of goal as Ameobi is the second top scorer with 8, after Andy Carroll left for Liverpool. The lack of first choice stopper between the sticks will also have a major influence on the game, as the Geordies look to enter the game with something of a patched up side.
Former United player Alan Smith misses out with an ankle injury, and Leon Best and Dan Gosling are carrying injuries. Ben Arfa misses the game with a broken leg
Joey Barton, the player opposing fans love to hate, has been something of a star player for Newcastle this year. Not hogging the bad headlines for a change, some of his performances on the pitch have shown quality, and has started to endear himself to the Toon Army. It’s a shame that can’t be said for the majority of the side, as Newcastle meet United after winning only two of their last 12 league and cup games.
Tiote will be one to watch too. He’s been great since signing for Newcastle, and there looks to be plenty to come from him over his career in England.
It’s a fact!
- Newcastle United haven’t beaten the reds at St James Park since 2001.
- Steven Taylor could make his 150th career appearence, while Rio Ferdinand could make his 350th start for us
- Jossy’s Giant’s was a kids TV show about a football team who wore black and white stripes after Newcastle. Click here to bring back childhood memories. Bryan Robson was in the show once.
- Three players who’ve played for both sides are David McCreery, Nicky Butt, and the late Alan Davies.
Lee Probert takes charge for United for the third game this season – previously being in charge of the FA Cup game against Crawley Town, and the home win against Blackburn Rovers.
I feel that a win for United is on the cards, with Newcastle’s depleted offerings maybe not giving us a difficult game. Taking advantage of that, and if we ever needed more motivation to win title 19, the semi against City will have focused our boys on to the importance of being champions again. Eclipsing Liverpool’s 18…and eclipsing any success City might have at the end of the season.
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