It says something for the current craziness of the Premier League that Manchester United lost 6-1 at home in their previous match, and it wasn’t the strangest result in the division that day. Nonetheless, it was an abysmal performance by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in their defeat to Tottenham.
The spectre of Spurs’ former manager, Mauricio Pochettino, looms large over the Norwegian everywhere he goes at the moment. Ole’s leading the sack race market, with Poch the odds-on favourite to replace him.
With United the outsiders among the big six for a top four finish at the moment, it’s no wonder they floated the idea of Project Big Picture, a plan so poorly named that even Dr Evil would’ve rejected it.
But as that proposal isn’t happening, United will have to sort out their fortunes on the pitch instead it seems. Perhaps it’s for the best that they’re not at Old Trafford this weekend, as they’ve lost both of their games there in 2020/21.
Saturday 20:00: Newcastle v Man Utd
Sky Sports Box Office
However, their recent record at St. James Park is nothing to brag about. The Red Devils have prevailed in three of their last six visits, but only one of their last four. Aside from a crazy 3-3 draw in 2016/17, United either win relatively easily in the north-east, or they lose 1-0 thanks to a goal from a Matthew (Ritchie in 2018, Longstaff last season).
Steve Bruce’s team have had a strange start to the season. They easily beat West Ham, which is now looking like an excellent result, and brushed aside a Burnley side who are yet to earn a point this term.
But they were blown away by Brighton, and would’ve lost at Spurs but for the vagaries of the handball rule these days. They’re also running incredibly hot in front of goal, which is a massive warning sign for stat nerds – where roughly one in three shots on target results in a goal on average, the Geordies have scored six times from just eight attempts. Do the math.
Still, with the generosity Harry Maguire and Co offered to Tottenham, maybe Newcastle’s hot streak will continue this weekend? Slabhead had a night to forget against the Danes in midweek for England too.
It’s hard not to conclude that the visitors will win this one regardless. Bruce is generally such a generous opponent to his most notable former club, handing over the three points in 18 of his 24 meetings with them. The conspiracy theorists will love that stat, but the more pertinent one is that United have won their last five away games in the Premier League.
In this very early part of the 2020/21 season, these teams are polar opposites when it comes to how entertaining their matches have been. Manchester United’s least goal heavy game still featured four, and it was certainly entertaining to the ‘Anyone But United’ brigade (e.g. pretty much everyone) as they were beaten 3-1 by Crystal Palace.
Both teams have scored in all of their matches too. Newcastle, by contrast, have won and lost a game to nil, and there’d have been a blank in three of their four games without their 96th minute penalty in north London.
And that’s been a long-term trend for the Magpies too. Crystal Palace are the only team who’ve been in the top flight since the start of 2018/19 who’ve seen both teams score in a lower proportion of their matches. However, with teams unable to do much preparation for this match thanks to the international break, it’s hard to imagine that the Red Devils will have tightened up too much so there should be a few goals.
Edinson Cavani can’t make his first appearance for the visitors here, else – according to Stats Zone – he could’ve become the second oldest debutant scorer in Premier League history. Behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, also for United. Do you think Ed Woodward has a thing for past-their-prime big-name players by any chance?
As he’ll be absent, how about Bruno Fernandes? He’s probably due a goal in open play, having not scored one in his last eight league games for the club. But he may not get his usual helping hand from the ref, as Craig Pawson has never awarded a penalty to United. Perhaps he’s due too though?
Regardless of that, I’ll be going for Marcus Rashford. He scored a great goal in United’s last away game, at Brighton, and also bagged a goal in their last win at Newcastle. The MBE also scored for England recently, and will definitely start with Anthony Martial suspended.
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