- Manchester United (25 pts) sits 8th in PL table
- Newcastle United (25 pts) sits 9th in PL table
- Last meeting: Newcastle 1-0 Man United
Manchester United’s Boxing Day match could not be bigger for the club unless the Red Devils were fighting for a Premier League title. Which they aren’t. Which is exactly why it is imperative that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer engineers a victory at Old Trafford over Newcastle United, with kickoff set for 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday, live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.
Solskjaer has led the team to just two wins over its last six Premier League games, and with a host of potential slippery matches leading up to a date with Liverpool on January 19, all eyes will be on the Norwegian boss who most certainly is running out of rope. He could have reinforcements available soon, with Paul Pogba likely to start after he came off the bench against Watford, while Diogo Dalot could also make his return from a two-month injury and Eric Bailly is still out but getting closer.
Manchester United’s last result is just plain ugly – a 2-0 loss to bottom-feeders Watford that set alarm bells off all over the club. With games against plucky Burnley and Arsenal under new management coming up in the following days, this game against Newcastle feels like a turning point one way or another.
On the other side of the coin, Newcastle comes into the match sitting ninth in the Premier League table, level with Manchester United on points. That position marks a huge jump from where many expected the Magpies to be, a massive feather in Steve Bruce‘s cap. He has led the Magpies to three wins in their last four despite a host of injuries to the squad, sticking with Miguel Almiron through his early Newcastle struggles until he provided the winner against Crystal Palace last time out.
Even so, this match marks the start of a brutal festive fixture run for Newcastle, who still must navigate games against Everton, Wolves, and Chelsea through mid-January. A result at Old Trafford and potentially doing the double over Manchester United would give Newcastle some breathing room ahead of more difficult matches.
Man United: OUT – Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee). QUESTIONABLE – Diogo Dalot (groin).
Newcastle: OUT – Allan Saint-Maximin (hamstring), Jamaal Lascelles (knee), Ciaran Clark (calf), Matt Ritchie (ankle), Ki Sung-Yeung (knock). QUESTIONABLE – Paul Dummett (groin), Jetro Willems (groin).
Man United: de Gea; Shaw, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; McTominay, Pogba, Rashford, Mata, James; Martial.
Newcastle: Dubravka; Yedlin, Lejune, Fernandez, Schar, Manquillo; Shelvey, Hayden, Almiron, Atsu; Joelinton.
What they’re saying
Man United boss Solskjaer on loss v. Newcastle: “It’s going to be difficult to break Newcastle down. I expect that we’ll get the fair share of the possession. We were disappointed when we had more than 70% possession up there [at St. James Park] and we lost the game.”
Newcastle manager Bruce on next games: “You think you’ve done it all in the Premier League and then all of a sudden, we’ve got Manchester United, Everton and Leicester in a short period time, difficult games. We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve given ourselves a nice platform but we’re only halfway there, so we’ve got to show the same resilience and spirit that we’ve shown over the last few months and see where it takes us.”
Newcastle is in good form, and that should boost them in this match. Still, Manchester United is the far more desperate team at Old Trafford and that should go a long way in the Boxing Day meeting. The Red Devils will find it difficult to break down a bunkered-in Newcastle looking to save its energy for multiple difficult games, but they will find a way through in a hard-fought 2-0 win for the home side.