Newcastle vs. Man U
Venue:St. James’ Park
Kick off: 4:30PM
Newcastle United and Manchester United meet in the Premier League this afternoon with both teams in serious need of a confidence boost.
Steve Bruce’s side are without a win since August and were thrashed 5-0 by Leicester City last time out, while United have only managed two wins from their last 12 league games.
In a way, the contemporary tales of Newcastle and United mirror each other quite nicely: a maligned owner, a failing transfer policy, an inept squad, no clear style of play, and no prospect of the club reaching a solution to these problems any time soon.
While Ashley has often been accused of trying to play too much of a shaping role at Newcastle, the owning Glazer family at Old Trafford can be seen as doing the opposite – taking an interest in share prices whilst leaving the actual management of the club to a directorship spearheaded by Ed Woodward, whose success in the marketing side of affairs has been overshadowed by a total failure in planning a coherent footballing strategy.
As United head to St James’ Park, there is a growing consensus among its supporters that the side’s toothless, idle performances this season are a consequence of not just tactics but indeed emblematic of a wider rotten culture at the Theatre of Dreams which feels technocratic, faceless, concerned only with short-term results as opposed to long-term potential.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, appointed back in March amid a wave of optimism, therefore has the seemingly impossible task of building a team for the future at a club whose management structure does not appear to look further than the next annual investors conference, but the 46-year-old is nonetheless doing what he can.
The arrivals of Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, combined with the Norwegian’s championing of academy products such as Axel Tuanzebe, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Brandon Williams, demonstrates that Solskjaer does at least want to build a squad which can grow as a collective over several years.
However, Solskjaer’s current reliance on a mixture of youngsters and expensive signings who are past their best has culminated in an almost total ossification going forward, with United’s 4-0 win over Chelsea serving as the only time in 13 outings that they scored more than one goal in a game, casting serious questions over the club’s decision to dispense with and fail to replace attacking duo Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez over the summer.
Perhaps more concerning for United is that, having won all of Solskjaer’s first nine away outings after Jose Mourinho was removed, the Red Devils are without a victory on the road in 10 games across all competitions, with that 3-1 win in Paris serving as the club’s last success away from home, underscoring the notion that these players are suffering on both a technical and mental level.
While United’s tactical problems – not to mention the supervenient structural malaise infecting the club’s very identity – are not likely to be solved any time soon, a victory at St James’ Park would at least restore some psychological belief ahead of a testing series of fixtures following the international break.
Newcastle United possible XI: Dubravka, Dummett, Schar, Lascelles, Yedlin, Longstaff, Shelvey, Almiron, Atsu, Muto, Joelinton.
Manchester United possible XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Young, McTominay, Matic, Pereira, Mata, James, Rashford.