Manchester United resume Premier League action at the weekend having made a giant step towards the Champions League group stages and the Red Devils will be eager to keep the 100% record intact when they host Newcastle United. The Magpies succumbed to a 2-0 loss at Swansea a week ago and they hope new signing Florian Thauvin will provide just the boost they need to recover from a disappointing start.
Once again, Manchester United kicked off the new season without knowing how the squad was going to look like by the end of the summer transfer window, and with several new players joining in the summer, some under-par performances in the opening exchanges were hardly a surprise. Nevertheless, the Red Devils showed they can grind out results when needed, which hadn’t been one of their traits, while also keeping clean sheets on 1-0 Premier League wins over Tottenham and Aston Villa. Even if Louis van Gaal continues to be criticised for the lack of defensive signings, the back line has been pretty good so far despite the fact that Daley Blind continues to deputize at centre-back. It was usually very reliable Michael Carrick who has scored the only goal past summer recruit Sergio Romero as he bagged an own goal in the Champions League play-off vs Club Brugge, but some magic from United’s new number 7 ensured there was no reason for concern. Memphis Depay quickly proved why he was paid £31 million, scoring two brilliant solo goals to prove he is worthy of the iconic short, before providing a pin-point cross for Marouane Fellaini to put the tie beyond doubt. And even though the Belgian and Phil Jones continue to miss out, whereas Marcos Rojo is doubtful, United have every reason to feel confident ahead of the Newcastle clash.
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has been under constant fire by the club faithful for the lack of ambition, and his decision not to appoint a proper replacement for Alan Pardew midway through the previous season almost ended up costing the club Premiership survival. The Magpies somehow managed to survive under John Carver, before appointing former England boss Steve McClaren as their new manager. It was the former Middlesbrough coach who probably demanded some big name signings this summer and, oddly enough, Mike Ashley delivered, with the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Chancel Mbemba and Florian Thauvin all joining. And with Siem de Jong slowly building his fitness, Newcastle now have a decent squad on paper, but there is still a lot of work to be done before the Magpies can start producing the performances everybody expects them to. They have so far failed to defeat Southampton at home, while being soundly beaten by Swansea at the Liberty Stadium, so they will not exactly relish the trip to Old Trafford at this point in time, especially since Daryl Janmaat is banned and Paul Dummet, Steven Taylor and Sylvain Marveaux remain sidelined. New signing Florian Thauvin could start, but Moussa Sissoko and Siem de Jong are injury doubts.
Manchester United are slowly raising their form and building confidence, and they can be trusted to make it four victories on the bounce, especially if Memphis Depay repeats the performance from the Club Brugge game. Newcastle have put together a very good squad, but, at the moment, they don’t look capable of matching the Red Devils on the road.
Verdict: Manchester United/Manchester United
Best Odds: 19/20