Man Utd looking to get back on track after Aston Villa glitch
It is fair to say that Manchester United have turned their season around, as they sit up in third after 17 games, with a three point cushion on fifth-placed Southampton in the Premier League.
All Red Devils chiefs and fans wanted this term was a top four finish (odds-on at 1/5 to do so) and thus secure Champions League football again for next campaign. Luckily, they next face a Newcastle United side, whose form has dipped in recent weeks after a remarkable purple patch that saw them climb the table as well.
While Man Utd were on a run of six straight wins, prior to their 1-1 draw last time out at Aston Villa, the Magpies have just one victory in their last five. The hosts, therefore are odds-on at 2/5 with Coral to take the three points, while Newcastle are 7/1 chances.
Alan Pardew, though, can take heart in that his side won at Old Trafford last season 1-0, so are tempting 33/1 chances to record that scoreline in their favour once more. The Toon have even restricted the Red Devils to just two wins in their last five Premier League home games against them, and have odds of 7/2 to claim a draw.
But Louis van Gaal will be keen to make amends for his team’s sloppy display against 10-man Villa, and could start with Radamel Falcao again, with the Colombian seemingly back to full match fitness. Striker Falcao got the equaliser at Villa Park, so is 6/5 to net anytime again, and 9/2 to strike last.
Man Utd’s leading marksman this term Robin van Persie will be keen to get back in the goals, and tops the anytime market with his skipper Wayne Rooney at evens.
Juan Mata, meanwhile, will be hoping to be on the scoresheet again, having bagged a brace last season against Newcastle at St James’ Park. The Spaniard is 9/4 to net anytime, and 12/1 for two or more again.
For Newcastle, Papiss Cisse will be their main threat, with the Senegal striker being his club’s top scorer this term, and been on target against Man Utd twice before in all competitions. He is 11/4 in the anytime market.
Van Gaal has endured a difficult season in terms of injuries to his players, but he could finally have a near-full squad to pick from for this Boxing Day clash. The likes of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Marouane Fellaini should all be fit to return. Angel Di Maria, who came off the bench against Villa after returning form a hamstring problem, could start.
Newcastle, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back from their 1-0 home loss to bitter northeast rivals Sunderland, but this match should be too early for Jonas Gutierrez to return. The Argentine made a winning comeback in the reserves in his first game since overcoming cancer.