Having secured a comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Huddersfield Town last weekend, with Alexis Sanchez finding the back of the net on his home debut, Manchester United travel to St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon, to take on Newcastle United. Victory over the Terriers strengthened the Reds’ hold on second place and are now five points ahead of rivals Liverpool in third, whilst they also reduced the gap with league leaders Manchester City to 13 points.
Manager Jose Mourinho raised some eyebrows with his team selection last weekend when he opted to drop record signing Paul Pogba and replace him with the promising Scott McTominay in the middle of the park, alongside Nemanja Matic. The 21-year-old put in yet another assured performance and it will be interesting to see whether that will be enough for him to retain his place in the starting XI or whether Pogba will return to the fold against the Magpies.
Thankfully, United have no fresh injury concerns for the trip to St James Park, with Marouane Fellaini, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic the only absentees. Fellaini, who picked up a knee injury during the 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur last week, underwent surgery and will be out for a number of weeks, whilst Bailly and Ibrahimovic could make a return to first-team training by the end of the month.
United’s victory over Huddersfield saw David de Gea mark his 300th Red appearance by keeping yet another clean sheet – his 15th of the season – and he will be confident of another shutout on Sunday. In front of the Spaniard, meanwhile, centre-back Phil Jones was left out of the matchday squad to face Huddersfield and it remains to be seen whether the England international will return to the starting XI, or whether Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo will retain their places.
Once again, all eyes will be on United’s new number seven, as Sanchez will be looking to continue his bright start to life at Old Trafford. The Chile international, who grabbed two assists on his debut at Yeovil Town, struggled to get any joy out of Spurs’ backline at Wembley but put in a Man of the Match performance last weekend.
Sanchez is not the only in-form attacker for the Reds. Up front, summer signing Romelu Lukaku scored his 19th goal in all competitions for United against Huddersfield and will fancy his chances against a Newcastle side embroiled in a relegation battle, with just one point separating them from the bottom three.
Mourinho’s old nemesis, Rafael Benitez, is expected to welcome back top scorer Joselu to his first-team squad, whilst Islam Slimani, who joined on loan from Leicester City on deadline day, could make his Magpies debut.
With City facing a tricky encounter against the Foxes at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, United will be hoping that three points at St James’ will not only help consolidate second spot but will also further reduce the gap at the top.