After a decent performance and confidence steadying result at Watford, this is the predicted Newcastle United team v Manchester United below.
After a perfect 100% record in November, the Manager of the Month curse struck.
Seven games in December bringing only one win and six point from a possible 21.
With six changes to his team that took on Liverpool and then a further three for the game at Watford, Rafa Benitez has shown a willingness to use his squad over the festive period.
I expect this to continue against Man Utd on Wednesday night.
Rafa has already said that Florian Lejeune is being aimed at the Blackburn FA Cup match, so with Ki Sung-yeung at the Asian Cup, and injury doubts over Ciaran Clark, Karl Darlow and Federico Fernandez, the NUFC boss already has his options, particularly at the back, limited to an extent.
Dubravka will obviously continue at the back and I can see Rafa returning to a back four, in large part due to the players who are set to be unavailable, but also because I think it will suit against this opposition.
Dummett and Yedlin will surely line up at full-back after both doing decent jobs at Watford and there being no real alternatives, whilst Lascelles and Schar are the two centre-backs who are definitely available and both also did ok at Vicarage Road.
Moving forward in the line-up, it gets more interesting.
Jonjo Shelvey is surely now primed to start, he may have failed to pick up his man for the Watford equaliser but with Ki away, Shelvey will come in alongside Mohamed Diame. The pair did well both in February’s win and October’s unlucky defeat, to Man Utd, and they will be reunited for this one. Hayden did ok up to a point against Watford but in no way, shape, or form, is he an ideal partner for Diame in the middle.
Matt Ritchie has done well the last couple of games on the left, a pearler of a cross that Joselu somehow missed at Anfield at 0-0, then another class delivery that Rondon buried at Watford. However, I can see him reverting to his more usual preferred position on the right for this one.
Kenedy was totally left out of the squad for Watford but Rafa Benitez has shown in the past that he isn’t scared to make big positions which fans might not choose themselves and which surprise neutrals.
I think the Brazilian will return in his best position as a left winger and hopefully will spark back to something near his best. Like Diame and Shelvey, Kenedy also performed very well in the two Man Utd matches in 2018, so Rafa going with horses for courses to an extent.
Salomon Rondon will be the main striker before no doubt being rested in the FA Cup match – but who will play as main support?
Despite the decent team display at Watford, Ayoze Perez was anonymous and offered zero threat. Yoshinori Muto has been able to be kept up to and including this Man Utd match thanks to the agreement of the Japan national team ahead of the Asian Cup, and I think he will start this one.
He had probably his best game so far for Newcastle at Old Trafford and a bit of pace will hopefully help against Jones and Lindelof who aren’t the most mobile.
If you take away the front two, the more observant amongst you may have noticed that eight of the other nine in my predicted Newcastle United team v Manchester United, also started in the 1-0 win in February. The only difference being Schar instead of Lejeune, as well as Muto and Rondon rather than Gayle and Perez.
Here’s hoping whatever Newcastle team that plays, has a real go at Man Utd, the visitors having leaked more goals than all clubs outside the bottom five, apart from Bournemouth.
This being my predicted Newcastle United team v Manchester United:
A team that will hopefully see Rafa Benitez kick off 2019 in the very best way possible.