Manchester United will travel up north to St. James’ Park on Sunday afternoon to take on Newcastle United in a game that’s become a must win for the Red Devils.
The hot seat has really warmed up under United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a recent run of poor results, and there’s a genuine chance he could be fired if he fails to get all three points before the international break.
Newcastle will look to pounce on this pressure, and cause another shock upset after the Magpies beat Spurs earlier on in the season.
As mentioned prior, things have really fallen apart for United in recent weeks.
The whole situation was summed up perfectly in their 0-0 draw away to AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday afternoon.
It was an absolutely woeful performance from the Red Devils on the night. They were outplayed throughout, and got lucky to not concede on a few occasions.
Going forward, United were toothless, which was proven by the fact that they didn’t register a single shot on target.
It was ultimately a decent enough point on the road against tough opposition, but United will need to be much better if they want any chance of winning on Sunday.
For Newcastle, things haven’t been much better, as they were demolished in their last fixture.
On the road against Leicester City, the Magpies conceded early when Ricardo Pereira buried a shot into the bottom corner.
Newcastle stayed in the game during the first half, but were dealt a major blow when Isaac Hayden was sent off in the 43rd minute.
Down a man and a goal, it all quickly unraveled. Jamie Vardy doubled Leicester’s advantage before an own goal from Paul Dummet made it three for the hosts.
Vardy grabbed his second of the match at the hour mark, and a screamer in the final minutes from Wilfried Ndidi wrapped up proceedings.
It was the fifth game in a row without a win for Newcastle, who now find themselves in the thick of a relegation battle.
Last time out
United were flying high under Solskjaer when these two sides last faced off, as the Red Devils picked up another win under the then-interim manager.
Taking place at St. James’ Park, it was a tense and cagey affair early on. Newcastle did well to absorb pressure, sitting back and hitting on the counter.
The deadlock was eventually broken, however, as Romelu Lukaku gave United the lead in the 64th minute. A free kick from Marcus Rashford was spilled by Magpies goalkeeper Martin Dubravka right into the path of the Belgian, who made no mistake with the finish from close range.
Rashford would put the game to bed with ten minutes to go, grabbing United’s second on the counter attack. Lukaku found Alexis Sanchez on the break, and his pass picked out Rashford in the penalty area, where he coolly slotted home.
It was another promising performance from the Red Devils, who had thought they finally found the man to solve their managerial issues in Solskjaer.
United’s injury woes only continued on Thursday, as Jesse Lingard was forced off the field late on. It seems he pulled his hamstring, which will take him out of the team for the foreseeable future.
He joins the likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, and Luke Shaw on the sidelines, as none of them will return until after the international break.
There are also doubts about Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who recently recovered from an illness, but might not be match fit in time for Sunday.
Newcastle, on the other hand, will be without the aforementioned Hayden as the midfielder serves his red card suspension.
In terms of injuries, Matt Ritchie is unlikely to feature, while Dwight Gayle and Florian Lejeune will both be out of action for a few weeks at the very least for the Magpies.
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Schar, Dummett, Shelvey, Longstaff, Atsu, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Carroll
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Maguire, Young, Fred, McTominay, Matic, Mata, Rashford, James
What to watch for
Tuanzebe to start?
The most interesting thing about United’s Europa League game on Thursday was the starting lineup. There were the usual cast of characters who are known to be backups, but there was a new name in the teamsheet. Victor Lindelof got the start against AZ, with Axel Tuanzebe dropping to the bench.
That quickly lead to speculation that Tuanzebe was the one being rested this time around, with eyes on him starting against Newcastle alongside Harry Maguire.
It certainly would be a bold call, but only time will tell if it’s the right one.
Tuanzebe did also start against Arsenal on Monday, but was played out of position at left back. Strong throughout, his impressive showing was somewhat undone as his poor backpass led to the Gunners equalizing goal.
Lindelof hasn’t had the best start to the campaign, to be fair, but United must not forget just how good he was last season. Often played alongside lesser quality centerbacks, the Swede was the only one keeping the backline together at times.
Lindelof is also immense on the ball, and has constantly started up attacking moves for the Red Devils. There’s a reason FC Barcelona were after him in the summer.
Ultimately, it will be up to Solskjaer to decide who accompanies Maguire at the heart of the defense. He is the one on the hot seat, however, and making the wrong decision might just cost him his job.