So, we lost to Blackburn at home but were saved by City’s loss at Sunderland. Pretty awful set of results for the top two but results, nonetheless, that neither punished the other for. United now face a tricky away tie at Sports Direct Arena. Couple the poor performance with an apparent bout of festive indiscipline shared amongst three not-so-wise men, Rooney, Evans and Gibson, and Newcastle United does pose many a problem.
Recent away form of the entire league has seen Swansea, Blackburn (obviously and annoyingly!), Stoke, Norwich, Everton, Villa and Chelsea pick up vital points. An away trip to Newcastle could be just the en vogue medicine precribed by the form doctor. This, alongside Newcastle’s last two home results – a loss to West Brom and a draw with not-so-great-away Swansea – fill me with great excitement for Wednesday’s encounter.
United’s away form, of late, has thrown up a confident 2-0 win at QPR, a steady 1-0 win at Villa, a 5-0 thumping of Fulham and, err, a 2-1 loss at FC Basel. That early December blip aside and United should be making the journey to the north east with a spring in their step.
One thing, form considered, that United must be very aware of is the form of a certain Dembja Ba. What the United defence wouldn’t give to be playing behind a confidence shot Andy Carroll instead of the increasingly prolific Ba?
That defence is where Alex Ferguson has his biggest selection dilemmas. The goalkeeper’s jersey is causing more and more debate amongst fans and critics alike. Does Ferguson give De Gea a chance to redeem himself after an embarrassing howler against Blackburn which, lest we forget, cost United the game. Or, on the other hand, does he give Lindegaard another chance to extend his superb run of five Premier League games without conceding a goal? Personally, given the age of both players I’d go for the latter. De Gea knows how good he is and so does Ferguson so there’s no need rushing the boy. Lindegaard, equally, knows how good he is but seems much more brash and arrogant in backing this up.
In defence I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess as to who’ll start! I’m praying the likes of Ferdinand, Smalling, Evans and at least one da Silva twin return which would allow Carrick and hopefully Jones, even, to push back into midfield.
As for midfield I think that Nani and Valencia are making the wing spots their own at the moment (apart from, that is, when Valencia is asked to play at right back!) Young is going to find it increasingly difficult to break back into the side if their impressive form continues. Central midfield could prove an interesting one too. As I said, I’d love to see Carrick and Jones back there but have been more than a little intrigued to hear Ferguson talk up Giggs’ recent performances of late.
Up front the mercurial Rooney should return but at who’s expense? Berbatov has been looking like the Berba of last season and Welbeck and Hernandez are looking sharp still. Could Rooney partner Berbatov up front with Berba playing deeper and Rooney pushing further forward threatening the goal a little more?
After Man City’s win against Liverpool a win is must against Newcastle and, although I feel it will be a tight one, I fancy United to nick it 1-0 or 2-1. It all depends on who starts in goal!