Date:Monday August 16 2010
On paper at least, both teams start equal, with early season arguably being the best time to visit Old Trafford.
Pre-season tells a different story, with the Red Devils scoring freely whilst the Magpies have struggled to record a solitary victory at Carlisle.
Chris Hughton does have a few selection problems, but can at least rely on Steve Harper between the posts, with the 2nd best saves to shots ratio of all keepers in the country last season, being beaten by only Edwin van der Saar.
With former Man Utd reserve, Danny Simpson still recovering from a summer operation, James Perch should get the nod at right back ahead of Ryan Taylor. Sol Campbell is not yet match fit, and with Steve Taylor also having had recent surgery, Coloccini and Williamson are set to start in the middle, with Enrique a fixture at left back.
Up front, Andy Carroll will wear the number 9 shirt for the first time in a competitive match for his club. The depth of midfielders in the squad means that he will probably start as a lone striker, in a 4-5-1 formation, even though Lovenkrands will be remembered for scoring against Man Utd 2 seasons ago at St James`, and Ameobi has only scored one league goal fewer than Michael Owen at Old Trafford since the turn of the millennium.
In the middle of the park, Old Trafford favours width. Jonas should start on the left, in a role which became unfamiliar in the World Cup where his Argentina progressed further than Man Utd`s England flops. Routledge could start on the right, unless Guthrie starts to offer a little more defensive protection.
In the central roles, Alan Smith is expected to hold, at the scene of his last home league goal almost 6 years ago. The former Man City battler, Joey Barton has impressed in pre-season, whilst Nolan returns to a ground where he scored in his first two winning appearances at the start of his premier League career for Bolton.
Sir Alex also has a few decisions to make. In front of his former dutch international keeper, Rio Ferdinand remains sidelined, but still leaves plenty of choice. The defence has a variety of options, from the old guard of Neville, but with former Newcastle target, O`Shea, more likely to pick up where he left off in the Charity Shield.
In the middle, Vidic is expected to start having been bottom of his group in South Africa, with former Sunderland loanee, star of a string of sex allegations, Johnny Evans. On the left, the choice is between French flop Evra, or the young Brazilian Fabio.
Midfield sees the possibility of summer target Cleverley seeking revenge for a double reverse with Watford last season. More likely starters include Valencia, along with the Toon`s veteran scourge, Scholes, Ashington born WC makeweight Carrick and either Giggs or Park.
Forward options include another Newcastle scourge, Wayne Rooney, who has not scored in his last 10 appearances for club and country.
Boyhood Newcastle supporter Berbatov has failed to score in his last 6 Premier League games, whilst Owen`s goal against West Ham in his last match of last season, was his first in 10 home EPL appearances.
Unusually, Owen spent the summer recovering from injury during the World Cup rather than being injured playing for his country. Mexican Hernandez completes the choices.
Referee for the occasion is Chris Foy. He was last seen by Newcastle supporters in the final match of Newcastle`s last Premier League campaign, away at Aton Villa. The last time that he was seen refereeing a match between these two Uniteds was in February 2008, which resulted in a 5-1 home defeat for the Toon.
Being based in the North West, just a short motorway drive from Old Trafford is probably not the best move that could have been arranged. In his last 12 Manchester fixtures, a Manchester side has only lost twice, United against Leeds in the Carling Cup last season, and City at Old Trafford.
History favours the home side, with the last Newcastle win at Old Trafford coming in 1972. However, early season has tended to see the home team vulnerable, and the visitors will surely seek to at least complete the WDL set for the promoted teams this weekend. The worst that could happen is falling 3 points behind the leaders.
Newcastle record at ManU:
76 W9 D20 L47 F80 A177
16 W0 D7 L10 F9 A34
Date:Monday August 16 2010
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