Since arriving at Old Trafford over one year ago, Erik Ten Hag has faced Eddie Howe four times. The Dutchman has drawn once, lost twice and won once - which was the pivotal triumph at Wembley Stadium to win the Carabao Cup last February.
In their very first encounter in the Premier League, the game finished as a tame 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. However, it was a feisty encounter as both teams locked horns at Wembley in the EFL Cup finals where Newcastle were almost methodically hammered 2-0. It gave Ten Hag his first piece of silverware as United boss. The return fixture in the English Premier League saw the Magpies picked up 3 valuable points in their quest to finish in the top 4 with a 2-0 win over the Red Devils. With both managers with a win apiece heading into last month's EFL action, it was Howe who left smiling after his fluent and dominant side cruised to a 3-0 victory without breaking a sweat. Over the four games, Newcastle’s Joe Willock has netted once on two separate occasions but for Saturday’s fixture, the midfielder is still on the sideline nursing an achilles tendon injury.
One thing that both teams share in common is their places at the bottom of their respective Champions League groups. Newcastle were denied a historic victory after Kylian Mbappe converted a late penalty for a 1-1 draw. United were involved in a messy and classic 3-3 draw at the Rams Global Stadium Istanbul Türkiye. They were further let down by Bayern Munich and FC Copenhagen’s 0-0 draw which means that United’s European fate on Matchday 6 will be out of their hands.
Who could start for the Red Devils as the injury crisis finally eases?
Despite a shaky start to the season and an extensive list of key players on the injury table, United lead the Premier League form table with a massive five wins out of their last six games. Hospitalees have included Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Amad Diallo, Mason Mount, Christian Eriksen, and Tyrell Malacia for extended spells. The impressive run of domestic form leaves Ten Hag’s side sitting 6 points behind the leader Arsenal in 6th position. A win could see United leapfrog Spurs if Manchester City should get past them in their next fixture. If Manchester United can manage to pull off a win, it would also mean they would stretch the gap between themselves and Newcastle by 4 points.
Manchester United have welcomed the return of Luke Shaw who has been out for an extended period of time. His return has stabilised the left back position after much of a crisis in the position as both the Englishman and Tyrell Malacia have been out for long periods. Things got even better as they trounced strugglers Everton 3-0. It was United’s biggest marginal victory since their 3-0 win over Crystal Palace in September.
Forwards scoring has been a big problem this season, yet quite surprisingly, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were among the scorers and could be a menace to any team if they hit top form. Eighteen-year-old Kobbie Mainoo was impressive last time out and is expected to be paired up with Scott McTominay in the middle of the park. Alejandro Garnacho I expected to start and will be looking tos core for a third successive game. The Argentinian etched his name in the Manchester United folklore with an overhead bicycle kick against Everton that was arguably better than Wayne Rooney’s against Manchester City.
Newcastle on the other hand has been making the headlines too after trashing Chelsea 4-1 over the weekend. Manager Howe bemoaned the fact that he was without 13 senior players but credited his team for a stout and gutsy performance, especially as breakthrough of 17-year-old midfielder Lewis Miley has been the silver lining of the injury crisis. Howe has somehow brought back the Magies pride at St James’s Park with some string of good results which saw them returning to the Champions League after 20 years in the wilderness. Goals have been spread evenly around the park, but much is expected of the in-form Swedish striker Alexander Isak who have netted 7 times so far this season. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof will have their plates full as they try to contain Isak and Gordon, the ex-Evertonian who have scored five times in the Premier League.
Newcastle will be looking to bounce back
The injured Callum Wilson is 5 goals away from his 50th goal for Newcastle and is on 7 goals this season. Sven Botman is still nursing a swelling around his knee and is expected to be back soon. However, if there is any reaction as he recovers, they may opt for surgery which would keep him out of action until February. If that should happen, Howe is expected to sign a center back in the January window. Newcastle is also planning on bolstering their offence and it is claimed that they are in talks with Stuttgart for Serhou Guirassy, who is one of Europe’s leading goalscorers available at a modest price. Irrespective of the plans in the boardroom, Eddie Howe’s objective is to finish this year on a high and it starts with a win over Manchester United on Saturday.
Whatever the outcome in the two teams' mid-week action, the fans can expect goals as both teams will be looking for a reaction after disappointing mid-week results.
Predicted line-up: Onana - Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelöf, Shaw - Mainoo, McTominay - Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Garnacho - Højlund.