Newcastle United v Manchester United TOTT preview
Manchester United make the trip to St James, fresh from their defeat by neighbours City in the FA Cup. Can Pardew`s Newcastle rub salt in their wounds to end a run of 18 games without a win against the visitors?
A home win for Newcastle would almost certainly ensure Premier League football at St James` next season. Since taking full control for team affairs, Pardew has only recoded wins against bottom sides. Tonight would be a good time for the manager to justify his long term contract.
Pardew has a poor record against Man United, losing at Old Trafford with Charlton and Ferguson doing the double over him at West Ham. Interestingly, his successor for the Hammers, Alan Curbishley, did the double over the Red Devils in his amazing rescue act after Pardew had left them in the mire.
Ostensibly, the available team has little to offer, with key injuries and suspensions. Harper was mentioned as a doubt, with Tim Krul ready to step up having already faced the Reds` reserves this season.
Danny Simpson will relish the opportunity to show Sir Alex what he let slip, with Williamson and Coloccini seemingly the preferred central defensive partnership, unless Pardew has another aberration in pushing the Argentine forward again. Enrique is expected to be in the shop window on the left.
Tiote is available to return in the midfield holding role, Nolan still being out after his 10th booking of the season. Jonas should keep his slot on the left with Barton undoubtedly set to face his former Manchester rivals. Whether he plays centrally of on the right will be dictated by a preference for either Guthrie or Ryan Taylor to retain their place. Both could play if Pardew decides to revert to the 4-5-1 with which he has lost each time. Ireland could also feature, returning from looking after his girlfriend following her car crash, which somehow seems symbolic of the player`s international and club career.
Ameobi is hoping to be fit to return, having scored in both his April league matches against ManU in the past. Lovenkrands was the scorer in the last home match against the Mancs. Ranger will hope to keep his place but is more likely to come from the bench, as is Kuqi whose only ever Premier League yellow card came against Sir Alex`s men.
Ferguson has the opportunity to bring back some players rested or suspended and may feel that he can rotate his squad against the Toon. In goal, Van der Saar is set for his last appearance at St James` in the Premier League, at a ground where he has not lost since his Fulham days.
In defence, the expected line up is deposed England captain, Ferdinand, alongside Vidic, with Evra and former Newcastle target O`Shea. As back up, don`t be surprised to see any of Wes Brown, scorer of the own goal that gave Newcastle their last win against the Reds in 2001, young prospect Smalling or former mackem loanee, Johnny Evans.
Ryan Giggs is expected to slot into the midfield, with Carrick relishing a return to his home club. Anderson was another rumoured Newcastle target, whilst flair is available in the shape of Nani and Valencia with the industrioius Park also an option.
It remains to be seen whether Sir Alex will opt for one or two up front, Rooney having been prolific against the hosts and now back on form. Berbatov is a boyhood Newcastle follower, with Hernandez always a threat. Home supporters will welcome the opportunity to show their appreciation for Owen`s years on Tyneside.
Referee for the event is Lee Probert, with a reputation for being finicky and with excess respect for the bigger teams. Manchester United have won every game under him, whilst Newcastle have a Championship win and a Premier league home draw.
Pardew credits Sir Alex as being the man to encourage him to manage a club outside London. With one of his worst defeats coming at St James, the 5-0 under Keegan, Rudolph has his revenge in inflicting on us the manager with the lowest top flight win ratio in Newcastle`s history.
The most likely outcome is surely a further delay to contract negotiations for the Toon`s waiting stars, but stranger things have happened than a home win.
Newcastle (from): Harper, Krul, Sodeberg, Simpson, Ferguson, Enrique, Coloccini, Williamson, S Taylor, R Taylor, Perch, Tiote, Barton, Gutierrez, Guthrie, Ireland, Vuckic, Tavernier, Richardson, Lovenkrands, Ameobi, Ranger, Kuqi.
Manchester United (from): Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Rafael, O'Shea, Brown, Ferdinand, Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Fabio, Valencia, Gibson, Anderson, Park, Carrick, Giggs, Nani, Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez, Owen.