Red Devils fight for fourth spot stay in Magpies meeting
Manchester United make the trip to St James’ Park in midweek hoping to secure a vital three points, which would see Louis van Gaal’s top four hopefuls remain in a Champions League place.
The Red Devils, 7/2 with Coral to win and both teams to score, will face a Newcastle United side that have enjoyed a fairly successful home run in recent weeks, having lost just once on Tyneside since the turn of the New Year.
United’s Dutch manager endured a troublesome spell of injury setbacks to many key players at the beginning of his reign at Old Trafford, but those woes have been eased this year, with Van Gaal declaring he has just a single absentee.
“Only Robin van Persie is injured. Last week, I had to miss three players,” said Van Gaal. “Now I only have one injury and that is Van Persie. That doesn’t mean that all the players are going with me.”
However, the Dutchman was unable to confirm the extent of his striker’s injury, or how long he will remain sidelined for.
“It’s too quick, we have to wait and see. I cannot say anything on that,” he continued.
United have come under recent scrutiny for their style of play, despite having climbed into the top four and securing an FA Cup quarter-final clash with Arsenal.
The Old Trafford outfit, 21/20 favourites, are currently occupying the final Champions League place in the top-flight table, and are two points ahead of in-form rivals Liverpool.
However, with Brendan Rodgers’ Reds in a rampant run of domestic league form, United must overturn their poor away run and come away from St James’ Park with all three points in order to maintain their impressive position.
The visitors boast a dominant record at home this term, but on their travels is where the struggles lie, having tasted victory in just one of their previous six league games on the road. Van Gaal’s men have only beaten lower league opposition Preston North End and Cambridge United, as well as QPR, in away matches so far in this calendar year.
John Carver’s Magpies, 11/4 to cause an upset, will be hoping to capitalise on their opponents’ stuttering away performances, and will be confident of doing so, after losing just one of their last five home games.
This included a narrow 1-0 win over relegation-battlers Aston Villa, with Papiss Cisse netting the deciding goal. Newcastle’s Senegalese striker is the club topscorer with 11 Premier League strikes in his 18 outings, and is 11/4 to net again anytime.
United boss Van Gaal had to rely on skipper Wayne Rooney to topple Newcastle’s local rivals Sunderland, with the England captain bagging a brace from a familiar central attacking role. The rejuvenated attacker is 5/1 to open proceedings, having done so in the reverse clash last year.
Rooney has a tremendous record in this fixture, striking 11 times against the Magpies for his current employers, since a switch from Everton in 2004.
The Red Devils have won every single meeting with Newcastle in which Rooney has been on the scoresheet, and he is 7/1 to follow up his Black Cats brace with another double on Tyneside, having netted twice in December’s 3-1 victory at Old Trafford.
United have won four of the last five league encounters with their opponents, and they will aim to continue that superior record and remain on course for a top four finish.
Van Gaal’s European hopefuls are available at 11/4 to claim a famous FA Cup triumph later this year.