Newcastle United vs Manchester United Preview: Struggling Magpies looking to spring a surprise

Newcastle United fans' optimism of breaking their terrible run of form at St James' Park will be low ahead of Sunday's clash, as they welcome the high-flying Manchester United to Tyneside.

Ninth time lucky?

It has been a traumatic return to the top-flight for The Magpies as they have spent most of it near the basement of the table, though optimism was raised at the beginning of the year with back-to-back against Stoke City and Luton Town in the league and FA Cup respectively.

Normal service has resumed since without a win in their last five matches in all competitions, and just hanging a point above the relegation zone Rafael Benítez will have highlighted the last two clashes with Burnley and Crystal Palace as must wins.

It could only produce frustration however as they took the lead on both occasions but a Karl Darlow own goal and a Luka Milivojević penalty could only muster consecutive 1-1 draws, they will be buoyed by taking the lead at Old Trafford back in November but will want to avoid a similar 4-1 scoreline.

Focus back on the field

It has been an emotional week for everyone associated with Manchester United Football Club, but will look to return the focus to matters on the field with the trip to the North East.

February 6 marked the 60th anniversary of the tragic Munich Air Disaster with the footballing world coming together to remember that lost their lives, and José Mourinho will hope that his side can do the fallen 'Busby Babes' justice in Sunday's fixture.

United were left deflated ahead of the visit of Huddersfield Town last Saturday having been effectively beaten by Tottenham midweek, but goals from Romelu Lukaku and new signing Alexis Sánchez secured a 2-0 win over David Wagner's men.

St James' has proven something of a bogey ground for The Red Devils over the last few seasons, but considering the home side's form, they will be confident of taking three points.

Team news

The biggest fitness concern for Newcastle will be that of January signing Islam Slimani, the striker was brought in on loan from Leicester City on deadline day to save The Magpies but Benítez confirmed that he has yet to take part in full training but will face a late fitness test on Saturday to see if he will make his debut.

A boost will be the return of joint-top scorer Joselu having missed the trip to Palace through illness, but there will also be a late fitness test for defender Ciaran Clark having picked up a knee injury in the draw at Selhurst Park.

The big selection headache for Mourinho who will be holding the commanding role in the midfield with both Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay battling for a start, McTominay stepped in for the whole 90 minutes against The Terriers with Pogba coming off the bench having seemingly angered Mourinho in the defeat at Wembley.

Despite the selection dilemma there are no fresh injury concerns for The Red Devils, but will continue to be without the likes of Daley Blind, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimović with Mourinho stating his desire that they would return before the end of the month.

Newcastle United will host Manchester United at St James' Park on Sunday, February 11 with kick-off at 2:15pm GMT.