Written by @Wayde_D for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Manchester United vs Newcastle | Friday 26 January | Old Trafford | 17:00
The traditional Boxing Day fixtures sees third-place Manchester United play host to a Newcastle side eager to get back to good form after losing their last three matches. Newcastle managed to secure a 1-0 win in this fixture last season and although United got their revenge at St James’ Park later in the season, the Red Devils will want to banish any good memories Newcastle have at the Theatre of Dreams.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester United 4/10
Manchester United failed to secure a seventh straight Premier League win last weekend as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa, who played out the last 25 minutes with ten men. Villa went up after eighteen minutes through Christian Benteke. Radamel Falcao pulled United level after the break, getting in behind Ciaran Clark to head past Brad Guzan from Ashley Young’s superb left wing cross. Gabriel Agbonlahor was then sent off for Villa in the 65th minute, going in hard on his former team-mate Young in a 50-50 challenge and catching the United man on the ankle. However, United failed to capitalise on their man advantage, creating no real clear cut chances. That result means United could fall ten points behind league leaders Chelsea if the Blues are to win on Monday night. The result might have been disappointing but considering recent performances, United fans have very little reason to feel much frustration. The point sees them fall seven points off Manchester City but kept them in third spot, a point above fourth-place West Ham and three points above fifth-place Southampton.
Louis van Gaal has done a splendid job since finding his feet at Old Trafford as they are now firm favourites to land a Champions League place and are still in the title race. West Ham are away to high-fliers Chelsea while Southampton are away to Crystal Palace on Boxing Day. This means three points for Van Gaal's men can strengthen their top four hopes even further. Up next is a home game against Newcastle which is far from a straightforward game but the good thing for United is that the starting eleven has the potential to be phenomenal. Radamel Falcao was back in business against Villa and is certainly in line to make his second consecutive start while Angel Di Maria also played thirty minutes, which puts him in contention to start on Friday. Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney complete a deadly attacking team while Phil Jones and Jonny Evans should start again at centre-back with Michael Carrick. Elsewhere, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling are expected to return to the squad after their respective thigh muscle strain and groin/pelvis injuries.
Newcastle United are wounded after suffering their fourth straight derby loss to rivals Sunderland, going down 1-0. That result means the Magpies have lost their last three matches, having lost 4-1 away to Arsenal and 4-0 at Tottenham in the League Cup. Alan Pardew looked to be heading for the sack following a dreadful end to last season and an equally bad start to this one. However, owner Mike Ashley refused to sack him and Pardew has managed to galvanise his players in impressive fashion. Pardew became the talk of the town with a five-match win streak that moved Newcastle into the top half of the table. The key now is to prevent another plunge into the struggles that plagued Pardew's side early, something that may prove challenging against counterpart Van Gaal here. Moussa Sissoko is one player Pardew will look to to inspire the team’s performances. He is an imposing physical specimen, quick, skilful and can grab a game by the scruff of the neck. A big performance from the midfielder at Old Trafford could see the Magpies come away with something. His midfield partner Cheick Tiote is a player for the big occasion and they could give United’s midfield a tough task on Friday. Up front, Pappiss Cisse is arguably their most dangerous player. Newcastle’s Senegalese striker has suffered injuries but still leads the club’s goalscoring charts with seven goals this term. Newcastle have attacking midfielder Mehdi Abeid back for this match but the good news ends there for the Magpies. They still have eight more players out injured, the most of any Premier League team.
VERDICT: Manchester United 4/10
Newcastle’s 1-0 win at Old Trafford last season was their first victory there in 41 years. Manchester United have won seven of the last ten meetings at home to Newcastle. The Red Devils’ home form has been superb of late and they have won seven of their nine league matches at Old Trafford so far this season. Newcastle’s last two travels yielded 4-1 and 4-0 losses at the hands of Arsenal and Tottenham. The home win is tipped.
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