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Positive news from Turin for Newcastle United ahead of Sunday

10 months ago
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Great news for Newcastle United from Turin.

Thursday night seeing Manchester United taking on Real Sociedad.

The match having to be played at a neutral venue due to virus issues meaning Real Sociedad couldn’t host the game in Spain.

The last 32 of the Europa League match sees the game set to end less than 72 hours before Manchester United take on Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

That Sunday night match kicks off at 7pm and of course Manchester United will also have the extra fatigue / hassle of travelling back from Italy, before they can start to prepare for the game against the Magpies.

Steve Bruce game after game says he doesn’t want to make excuses about the latest result and / or performance, then always proceeds to come out with a (flimsy) long list of them.

When he takes his pre-Man Utd match press conference on Friday, I bet he doesn’t mention what a big advantage it is for Newcastle United to have more than twice the preparation time of their opponents.

Also of course, I was very interested to see just which match Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prioritised and certainly it doesn’t look like he is saving his key players only for the Newcastle United match.

Man Utd’s best player and top goalscorer (14 in Premier League) Bruno Fernandes starts tonight in Turin, as also does Man Utd’s second top PL goalscorer (with eight) Marcus Rashford.

Captain and their main defender Harry Maguire also starts against Real Sociedad, along with first choice central midfielders Fred and McTominay, as well as first choice right-back Wan-Bissaka.

Indeed only four outfield changes from their last Premier League game, with Martial, Cavani, Shaw and Lindelof replaced by Bailly, Greenwood, James and Telles. To be honest, I think only Cavani and possibly Shaw would improve the team chosen tonight by Solskjaer, compared to that last PL selection.

On the Real Sociedad side of things, Mikel Merino starts for the ‘home’ side.

Very popular with Newcastle fans when at St James Park, supporters could see he had great potential, which has been proved by both his club form in La Liga and his performances for Spain.

Ahead of playing Manchester United, Mikel Merino spoke to the Guardian, a few interesting outtakes below about when he came to Newcastle United and the Premier League aged 21:

“An adventure”, he calls it, but it wasn’t always how the midfielder had imagined it. “There are moments you’re not happy. Sometimes people think a footballer is a machine, but I went not knowing how to do anything for myself, and at times you’re lonely. I wasn’t playing much and had to mature. The situation forced that on me. You grow or you sink. But I don’t regret it: I wanted to leave my comfort zone, take a step forward, see the world, and as a life experience it was enriching: a new country, a new culture.”

“The league changes you. I remember Rafa [Benítez] telling me to play quickly, one or two touches. He said if they get to you, they’ll hit you or take the ball.”

He recalls Benítez’s “very, very methodical” management. “It’s a pity there was that [difficult] relationship with the owner, that the supporters were unhappy. You could feel it: the players knew. But the fans were spectacular. There’d be the chance to break and they’d go mad. It could be 70 metres from goal and …” Merino’s eyes open wide. “… And they thought we might score. What hurt most about leaving was the fans. I was happy but never quite felt 100% in football terms. And the chance came to go home.”

Good luck to Mikel Merino who was only at St James Park for one season, a player who could have been a Newcastle United long-term quality player, if only the club had been under different ownership.

(***Man Utd strolled to an easy 4-0 win with goals from Bruno Fernandes (27, 57), Rashford (64) and James (90). Mikel Merino played the full match for Real Sociedad but could do little to stop the flow of the game, as Man Utd’s swift breaks constantly caused problems. Good new for Newcastle that Fernandes was kept on for 83 minutes on Thursday night, presumably Solskjaer giving him every chance of turning two goals into a hat-trick. Five subs are allowed but the Man Utd boss only made these four – McTominay (Matic 60), Bruno Fernandes (Mata 83), Rashford (Martialat 68) and Greenwood (Dialloat 83))

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