A storied football club who plays in one of the country’s largest stadiums they may be, but all is not well with United. The team is losing games to clubs they should be beating, the fans fear the manager is out of his depth, and the less said about the owner the better.
But which United are we talking about, Newcastle or Manchester? Let’s be honest, a Premier League match between these two is basically a Spiderman meme sponsored by Barclays.
It’s all relative though. Manchester United might be the 2/7 favourites to finish outside the top four, but Newcastle are the 10/11 favourites to get relegated. How ever long Ole has left at the wheel – he’s 7/4 to be gone by Christmas – he won’t steer the Red Devils that far over the Premier League cliff.
And he’ll be helped out by his opposite number here. Steve Bruce, the 6/5 favourite to be out of work before the Boxing Day sales, is Man United through and through. Cut him and he bleeds official noodle partners.
Bruce would do anything to help them out, as evidenced by his managerial record against his former club: played 22, won 0, drawn 5, lost 17. Granted, he hasn’t bossed any of the big boys, but when the list of teams he has failed to beat as a manager is Doncaster, Luton, Peterborough and Manchester United, the conspiracy theorists go into overdrive.
The red United may be on the slide, but they’re not at the level of those other teams. Yet. Paddy has them as 4/5 favourites here, even though they haven’t won a league game on the road since Solskjaer got the job full time.
In the same period, the Magpies have only won once on home turf. This match will be like two bald men fighting over a comb, but the visitors should be the slightly hairier team.
Newcastle go into the weekend as the joint-lowest scorers in the division, while Ole’s boys have scored the fewest goals of the big six clubs.
But fear not. You might be fearing a dull stalemate, but there’s one man who will give his all to ensure we are entertained. While the fixture list claims this match is taking place at St. James’ Park, it’s actually being staged in Mike Dean’s world.
Dean loves pointing to the spot, usually in flamboyant fashion. The Tranmere Ultra awards a penalty more often than any other top flight ref. And fortunately for Solskjaer, he’s given United 16 penalties, more than any other team.
If the Red Devils had scored all of their spot kicks this season, they wouldn’t be mired in mid-table. But they’ve also yet to win a league game where they haven’t scored a penalty. That trend could continue for another week here.
It doesn’t seem likely we’ll see many goals, even with Mike Dean’s intervention. None of Newcastle’s home league games or United’s away matches in 2019/20 have seen more than two goals scored.
The final clash on Tyneside prior to the Geordies’ last relegation was a 3-3 thriller, but the two since they returned to the big time were classic Rafa Benitez: a 1-0 win and a 2-0 loss. Expect more of the same.
Newcastle fans know it’s not easy to select a scorer bet for their team, as they rarely score. At 15/2, ‘No Goalscorer’ is a shorter price than most of their players, but he’s as elusive as ‘own goal’ often is.
Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez scored 23 league goals between them in 2018/19, and they’ve been replaced by Joelinton, who netted seven in the Bundesliga. It’s hard to see who will score, so go for a man who is due one sooner or later.
Since signing for the Magpies, Miguel Almiron has had 27 league shots, with 19 in the box and three clear-cut chances, but has no goals to show for it. Hopefully his luck turns here.
By this logic, we should probably punt upon Paul Pogba to score, as he’s taken 19 shots since he last scored in the league.
However, Marcus Rashford is in a similar boat, and he has wrestled ownership of the penalties.
Rash has only scored one league goal from 18 shots (excluding penalties) this season. He’s the Red Devils’ best hope.