Manchester United Travel To Newcastle For Their First Fixture In 16 Days And Here Are Five Things To Look Out For At St James’ Park

Donny van de Beek, for example, has not started a meaningful match since the win at Villarreal over a month ago. Mason Greenwood scored spectacularly against Young Boys but his last Premier League start was against Manchester City on November 6.

Still, Ralf Rangnick erred in naming an unchanged team at Norwich, where United were fortunate to win, and it would be complacent to select the same XI for the fourth league match running.

Selections a nod to January?

Twenty-five outfield players trained at Carrington when it reopened last week and there are just eight spots on the bench. Phil Jones has been an ever-present in matchday squads over the last month but he is unlikely to have boarded the plane to Newcastle on Sunday night with four centre halves ahead of him.

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Juan Mata, open to a mid-season move, is bound to struggle to make the matchday 20 and so could Amad, who would be on loan already but for an ill-timed injury.

While those three absences would be inconsequential, uncertainty is rife over the futures of others certain to miss out. Anthony Martial wants out and has done nothing to justify a matchday squad place. Eric Bailly does not have to be released for Africa Cup of Nations duty until next week but Raphael Varane is back. Jesse Lingard could be the penny teetering over the edge of the arcade, about to be pushed over by Edinson Cavani.

Quartet quandary

Rangnick’s methodology has worked sporadically during his three matches as manager. United were unrecognisably good in the first-half against Crystal Palace, defensively secure in the first-half at Norwich and won both 1-0 via goals at an identical time.

Individually and collectively, the front four were out of sync at Norwich, and Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes have done little to justify their starting status since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer welled up in his exit interview.

Three in a row?

It was only back in March that United kept three successive league clean sheets, eventually increasing it to four; more compelling evidence Solskjaer primarily excelled as United manager in crowdless stadia devoid of pressure.

United were hardly watertight at Norwich, another win where they were indebted to David de Gea at one end and Cristiano Ronaldo at the other. Newcastle have some mercurial attackers to keep in check but United are at full strength in defence and their full-backs have never been in finer form for the club.

Potential for a shock

City sleepwalked through the first-half at Newcastle eight days ago and still ended it 2-0 up. Newcastle have the worst defence in the Premier League and the majority of the squad are Championship standard.

Yet a nocturnal kick-off time against United at St James’, two days after Christmas, with Newcastle scrapping for safety, has potential for a shock. Norwich – below Newcastle – rued losing to United and the Longstaff brothers did a number on United just over two years ago.

Newcastle drew with United at home in the last season they were relegated and beat them in their first season back up.

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