15:00 GMT, Saturday 10th February, St James’ Park (Newcastle, England), Sky Sports
Rafael Benitez has defied the critics by remaining in charge of Newcastle, having made slow progress throughout this season.
Newcastle’s poor form which clouded the end of 2017 has been impeded to leave them with only one loss from the last six league games. However, they’ve also only won one of those fixtures.
With only a single point separating them from 19th-placed Huddersfield, every point is now essential for the Magpies.
By contrast, José Mourinho’s side may have lost some of their early season flair but they are certainly proving to be ruthlessly efficient of late.
Manchester United’s last seven matches have produced six victories, each of them coming with a clean sheet.
But while the Red Devils have won on Tyneside more than any other visiting team (12) in the Premier League, Mourinho himself has yet to guide a team to victory at St James’ in six league attempts.
Last Time Out
Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle United (Premier League)
Newcastle were able to withstand a second-half barrage to take a point from London after failing to make their first-half dominance truly count.
While both teams began the match with intent, Newcastle were the side to carve open the better chances, one of which saw a rejuvenated Mohamed Diamé poke home. The Senegalese midfielder has recently been used in a much more defensive role and it’s coincided with an upturn of form for the once widely-derided player.
It was Kenedy on the left wing who once more showed the most promise for United, who like Palace through Zaha, began to rely on his cutting runs to open chances for the team.
When Palace began to force their way back into the match, Ciaran Clark gave away a needless penalty to level the scores, something which proved a turning point in the game.
With Newcastle forced onto the back foot, they defended admirably which ultimately proved enough for them to earn a hard-fought draw and prevent them sliding into the relegation zone.
Manchester United 2-0 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)
United cantered to victory without too many problems as Huddersfield failed to put any of their four shots on target.
Mourinho threw the surprise of dropping Paul Pogba to the bench with Scott McTominay taking the central midfield berth in his absence.
With 25 minutes remaining, the French midfielder replaced Jesse Lingard in the number 10 position and immediately instigated the play which saw Alexis Sánchez win and then convert, at the second attempt, a penalty.
The Chilean winger was the star of the show on his home debut, both linking up well with his new team-mates and through some individual brilliance which lit up Old Trafford.
Perhaps the most telling thing from this game was the team reaction when Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring.
Before hitting his 19th goal for United, the Belgian had grown increasingly frustrated as he was afforded little room by the Huddersfield defence, yet his goal drew much congratulations from the United players.
With Huddersfield offering little in the final stages, the win cut United’s gap to City by two points following their draw at Burnley the earlier that day.
Newcastle United Lineup
Jesús Gámez remains out with an ankle injury while Islam Slimani continues to recover from his thigh strain.
Ciaran Clark is also a slight doubt after he took a knock to his knee against Palace last weekend which could see Florian Lejeune replace him in central defence.
Otherwise, the Magpies could field the same starting eleven this weekend.
Manchester United Lineup
Mourinho faces a similar story in terms of injuries with no new worries and the foursome of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Eric Bailly (ankle), Marouane Fellaini (knee) and Daley Blind (knock) all still unavailable.
Pogba is likely to return to the starting lineup as could Anthony Martial but the United manager may retain the same defence to breed some consistency and confidence at the back.
Key Battle: Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle United) vs Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Taking into account Newcastle’s recent goal-scoring exploits, their best chance of taking anything from this match is going to rely heavily on their defence shutting out the Red Devils. Captain and leader Jamaal Lascelles will, therefore, play a vital role for his team again this weekend.
His willingness to put his body on the line for his team has not only proved effective, it’s also provided an example to galvanise those around him.
Looking to best the defender will be Lukaku, a striker who is no stranger to hard work and a physical tussle.
With only two goals from his last seven league appearances, the striker’s goals-return has not yet lived up to his costly price-tag. Where he is an under-valued player though, is in the way he brings his team-mates into the game.
Newcastle will not only need to be wary of the Belgian’s presence, they will have to stay alert to be sucked into his vicinity and allow space for a fast attacking player to exploit.
Following in the footsteps
When the topic of Brazilian footballers emerges into a conversation, there are few people who will think of Newcastle United.
While many know that Newcastle had a rich attacking philosophy during the mid-90’s, they also were the first English club to bring a Brazilian to these shores. Mirandinha arrived on Tyneside five years before Kevin Keegan famously took the reigns in the North-East.
While his time at Newcastle returned modest success, his skill and style inspired many of the players and fans who saw him in action.
Newcastle's newest loan-signing from Brazil, Kenedy, has brought back a sense of excitement and anticipation into the squad.
While he plays along the left wing rather than as a centre-forward, he too can inject the kind of football into St James’ Park that the locals crave.
Teaching the Pog new tricks
Having been deservedly brought off during the Tottenham match, Pogba was then left out of the starting lineup completely last weekend. While the midfielder has a hugely positive impact for most games, he is still learning the game and developing into the player Mourinho wants him to be.
His positional sense was often poor or missing altogether against Spurs which has led to questions about his best place in the team.
Tellingly against Huddersfield, he was introduced into the match in a much more advanced position than he typically plays, a position which has far less defensive responsibilities.
With a need for central midfielders and a wealth of options in attack, it will be telling where Pogba starts, if he starts, this weekend’s match.
He certainly has the physical presence to play centrally well, however, questions remain regarding his discipline and patience.
Prediction: Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester United
With Slimani still unable to take the field for his new club, Newcastle are once again likely to struggle in the opposition penalty area.
The reverse fixture saw Manchester United dominate the wings and unsettle Newcastle’s defence with crosses. However, the presence of Jamaal Lascelles this time around will make that a less fruitful tactic.
That said, the Red Devils should still have enough attacking ability to prise all three points away from the North-East and maintain their current charge in the league.