Best available Newcastle United team v Manchester United
Is it mission impossible, with this best available Newcastle United team v Manchester United on Saturday?
Even the most ardently positive supporter would have to admit that the current full strength NUFC squad would struggle against Man U, and at the time of writing, we don’t even have that!
With Dubravka and Wilson certainly out, missing both of our best options at both ends of the pitch is going to make this match a case of damage limitation at best.
Apparently Almiron will be available for this match (again at current time of writing, according to Steve Bruce), despite confusing reports that he was set to be punished for NOT going to a red list country in the current international break. This is absurd in my opinion, as surely clubs and the players themselves should have a say on if individuals travel for international call ups, especially in such exceptional times…
Fraser is also missing due to an ankle issue, whilst Shelvey and Hayden are likely still out of contention.
Not sure on Dummett, who may be a late fitness check, as is Darlow, but it would be quite cruel to put someone who’s just fought off a really bad case of covid in between the sticks and ask him to keep out a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, who will almost certainly be making some sort of appearance at Old Trafford.
Given all of this, here’s my best (available) Newcastle United team v Manchester United:
Goalkeeper – Woodman
Much the same as all of the other matches, I think he’s our only option at this point, with Dubravka still out, Darlow probably not recovering quickly enough, and Gillespie never being more than a keeper to make up the numbers (four keepers in a 25 man squad, great tactics from Brucie…).
In fairness, Freddie Woodman hasn’t done too badly in his appearances so far, I would argue he’s just been dropped in it by some brainless defending at several points.
Centre- Backs – Schar, Fernandez and Dummett / Clark
Definitely the problem position(s) so far this season, I think it’s fair to say that most of the CB’s performances we’ve seen this season have ranged from ok to calamitous.
With that, I’ve recommended dropping Lascelles, as he has looked a liability in the past few matches, being out of position several times, as well as losing his head and giving away two penalties.
Dummett is never going to be a world beater but is at least consistent, hard working and reliable. Let’s hope he passes that fitness test, or I would put Clark in.
Wing Backs – Murphy and Lewis
In a game where we’re almost certainly going to be defending for basically the entire match, I think Lewis has to start over Ritchie.
As an actual defender he will be needed to try and stifle attacks as best he can and we saw Ritchie caught out multiple times by Livaramento during the last match, a Southampton player most fans would have never heard of prior to the start of this season.
Murphy I think at least has the pace to track back if caught out, but he also needs to be prepared to be defending for 90% of the match (if not more).
Midfield – Longstaff, Willock and Almiron
Pretty much the only three midfielders available at the moment, with Shelvey and Hayden likely to miss this one, and Fraser in a protective boot.
If the strange rules of international football do mean that Almiron can’t play, we’ll be forced to replace his workrate and energy with none other than Jeff Hendrick…and if that’s not a tragedy I don’t know what is.
Almiron has been chronically misused by Bruce but at least the man always gives 100% every second he’s on the pitch. I’m not sure if I can handle watching Hendrick trot about the halfway line for 90 minutes without losing the will to live…
Attack – ASM and Joelinton
Well, we all knew Wilson’s injury record was going to bite us at some point – I was just hoping it wasn’t going to be so soon.
ASM has set himself the herculean task of upstaging CR7 at Old Trafford and I’d imagine he’s going to have a job on his hands. Joelinton is a better option than Gayle in my mind but neither are really a good choice to lead the line against Man Utd.
All in all, I think it’s going to be a long old afternoon at Old Trafford tomorrow.
No positives from me today but the loss of Wilson will serve to highlight the disgraceful penny pinching, relegation flirting transfer tactics of the Ashley regime, if it wasn’t already clear for all to see.
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