Date: Saturday 26 November, 2011
Referee: Mike Jones (replaces Phil Dowd).
Well, it’s almost time for the second of Newcastle United’s triumvirate of clashes against “the big guns” of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea. Like the last one, we will also face the further disadvantage of playing away in the hostile environment of Manchester United’s “Theatre of Dreams,” Old Trafford.
Stats, previous matches etc…
Much like our previous Manchester opponents last week, our recent record against Manchester United at their place is rather dire unfortunately. We haven’t won at Old Trafford for over 39 years. In the days when Supermac’s sideburns were growing ever bigger, we managed 2-0 victory in February 1972. Our last victory at St James’ Park was a glorious 4-3 victory under Bobby Robson in September 2001. In our last six games at Old Trafford we have lost five, but did manage to scrape a 1-1 draw in our opening game of the 2008/09 season.
The Manchester machine were totally undefeated at home in the Premiership last season, the closest they got was a 2-2 draw against the throstles of West Bromwich. This season however, they were of course given a sound 1-6 home thrashing by their noisy neighbours from just down the road. That’s about it though as the rest of their home Premiership games have all been victories, with their best result being a comprehensive 8-2 home stuffing of Arsenal.
On the Magpie side, being fourth in the table, it’s hardly surprising that our Premiership away record hasn’t been too bad either, with three wins, two draws, with our first defeat home or away coming against Manchester United’s nemesis at The City of Manchester Stadium.
For those of you who have been watching all the games, it will come as little surprise that wor centa back, Steven Taylor, has been the best blocker in the Premiership so far, blocking no fewer than 19 goalbound efforts in our 12 Premiership games so far. If he starts, which, of course, he almost certainly will, it will be his 150th league start for the Magpies.
Our all time Premiership record at Old Trafford is: P 17, W Nowt, D 6, L 11.
Team news, squads, probable formations etc
Firstly on the Newcastle United side, the club’s official site have reported that winger Gabriel Obertan has recovered from a toe infection and should be available for selection. Cheik Tiote and Leon Best, who were out of our last game against Manchester City with a knacked knee (medial collateral ligament) and “Gilmore’s groin” respectively are still doubtful. Central defender Mike Williamson is still ruled out by the club for this game with his ankle/foot injury, but should be available from selection very soon after a long, long spell out. Fianally, winger, Sylvain Marveaux should be out for quite some time with his groin, which has required surgery once again.
Getting on to the tactics / formation front, though Leon Best is still somewhat doubtful, if he is fit, this leaves the “To Ben Arfa or not to Ben Arfa, that is the question” question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to stick with the silky skills of the French Tunisian number 10 in the hole, or go back to the big hold up gadgie who worked so well with Demba Ba in our first 11 games. To put it another way, will there be a repeat of the 4-4-1-1 formation we used in Best’s absence, or will Pardew go back to the 4-4-2 which saw us undefeated in the league this season until the clash with moneybags Man City last weekend?
On the other side, Darron Gibson and Rafael have returned, probably to keep the bench warm, along with Nemanja Vidić, who will probably start. All you Magpies out there will no doubt be shocked to hear that Michael Owen will definitely be out with a thigh injury, as will Tom Cleverley (ankle) and Anderson (knee).
Once again on the formation / tactics front, Alex Ferguson, has been a flexible, pragmatic fellow without dogma when it comes to this sort of thing. Though recent performances heavily suggest that he will go with a 4-2-3-1 affair which can always slip back into a 4-5-1 if needs must, which is seldom necessary with kind of quality they have in the side. There’s a good chance that this formation could line up with the Mexican Javier Hernández aka “Chicarito” upfront, with Wayne Rooney slipping comfortably into his hole, with possibly Nani and Ashley Young on the attacking flanks of a cosy threesome behind the striker. Behind that, Waalsend’s very own Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher will be favourites for the more defensive central midfield positions. Finally, Phil Jones will probably be at right back, with Sepp Blatter’s best mate and team captain, Rio Ferdinand, taking up his usual central defensive position along with Nemanja Vidić, and finally, Patrice Evra on the left with doughnut nicker, David de Gea, between the sticks.
Having written all that, there are mixed messages about Wayne Rooney’s fitness, though the official site seems to have ruled him in so I haven’t put him on the “doubtful” list. As usual, the excellent Park Ji Sung should be in with a shout of a starting place along with those mentioned above along with one or two others.
Newcastle United (from): Tim Krul (G), Rob Elliot (G), Danny Simpson (D), Ryan Taylor D/M), Steven Taylor (D), Davide Santon (D/M), Shane Ferguson (D/M), Fabricio Coloccini (C, D), James Perch (D), Yohan Cabaye (M), Jonas Gutierrez (M), Gabriel Obertan (M), Dan Gosling (M), Danny Guthrie (M), Hatem Ben Arfa (M/F), Mehdi Abeid (M), Haris Vučkić (M), Alan Smith (M), Demba Ba (F), Leon Best (F), Shola Ameobi (F), Peter Lovenkrands (F/M), Sammy Ameobi (F).
Doubtful: Leon Best (Gilmore’s groin), Cheik Tioté (knacked knee).
Injured:, Mike Williamson (ankle / foot), Sylvain Marveaux (groin).
Manchester United (from): David de Gea (G), Anders Lindegaard (G), Ben Amos (G), Phil Jones (D), Rio Ferdinand (C, D), Nemanja Vidić (D), Patrice Evra (D), Jonny Evans (D), Chris Smalling (D), Michael Carrick (M), Darren Fletcher (M), Nani (M), Park Ji-Sung (M), Ashley Young (M), El Radji Diouf (M/F), Wayne Rooney (F), Dimitar Berbatov (F), Danny Welbeck (F).
Doubtful: Danny Welbeck (thigh), .
Injured: Michael Owen (thigh), Anderson (knee).
What the managers have been saying
On the Magpies side our Silver Supremo has acknowledged that like last weekend’s game in Manchester, it’s gannin’ to be a tough one, but also held to the theory that it’s so long since we had a victory there, we must get one eventually! He said:
“I know he will be smarting from Wednesday’s draw (against Benfica in the Vhampion’s League), so unfortunately, we are on the back of a negative from Manchester United’s point of view, so it will be a tough game for us.
“If you are going to Old Trafford against the quality of player and the atmosphere that’s created, of course you are going to find it very, very difficult.
“The odds are that you are not going to get many victories, and 1972 suggests that maybe we are due one.
“You need a bit of luck, sometimes the ball to roll your way or fortune to favour you. But you have got to force that. We have got to force them into a situation where they might make a mistake, or we have a forward running beyond and a player commits himself and they are down to 10 men.
“It’s crucial when that chance comes along that we take it, because we aren’t going to get many chances there.“
On a similar note he also said in another interview:
“We are coming up against the champions this week and they will be eager to show us how powerful they are.
“They had a disappointment on Wednesday night, and they need to put that right, so we come up against a motivated side and probably the strongest side, so it is a big test for us.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the fence Alex Ferguson, much like Roberto Mancini last week, was quite fulsome in his praise of what Alan Pardew and the Magpies have achieved so far this season saying:
“Alan’s done a great job at Newcastle. He’s galvanised them and got them fighting for each other.
“I watched their recent 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham and it was a great game, end to end, with both teams trying to win.
“When you’ve got a Newcastle team doing that, with their great support behind them, you know you’re going to get a difficult game.”
Well that just about wraps it up for this preview except to say:
Howay the Lads!