MANCHESTER UNITED host Newcastle on Boxing Day. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) delivers his betting analysis.
Manchester United v Newcastle | Thursday 26th December 2019, 17:30 | Amazon Prime
At the start of the season, not many would have had Newcastle going into Christmas level on points with Man United. But that’s where we are.
Steve Bruce has won many of the Toon Army over and the Magpies have eight more points than they did at this stage last season under Rafa Benitez.
However, the former Man United player has a shocking record as a many at Old Trafford. His ten managerial visits to the Theatre of Dreams have seen just one draw and nine defeats – more like the Theatre of Nightmares.
Despite much uncertainty in life, one thing has been pretty certain in football – Man United win at home on Boxing Day. They haven’t lost at home on this day since 1978 – a run of 15 wins and three draws, but will they continue that record?
Return of the Pog
Paul Pogba came off the bench in the defeat at Watford and it saw him inject more purpose into their play.
From when he came on, the Red Devils recorded a further six shots on target to what they had previously achieved and his presence helped to stretch the Watford defence a bit more – see the ball over the top to Mason Greenwood.
If he gets the nod to start for the first time since September, it could mean Scott McTominay drops slightly deeper to give the Frenchman a freer reign.
With the hosts very likely to dominate the ball, people will look towards the passing markets for those in red.
McTominay will be one of them, however the 4/5 on him to complete 60+ passes doesn’t appeal. It’s only something he’s done in two of his 16 league games this season, although it did land in the reverse.
Pogba himself averages 66 passes per game, with a completion rate of 81%, and has had 11 shots in his six games, so given how instrumental he’s likely to be the go-to for many punters looking at these sorts of markets.
The possession game
You won’t be surprised that Newcastle have the lowest average possession stats (39%) in the Premier League given the way they set-up under Bruce.
At Burnley, they went with a 5-4-1, which could well be employed once more, as he’ll look to frustrate Man United and hit them on the break – similar to what they did in their win at Spurs.
Man United average 53%, so it’ll be the hosts dictating what happens here, however, they’ve struggled to be ruthless with their possession.
Match of the Day 2 highlighted some startling statistics about the Red Devils when averaging 50%+ possession (P12, W1, D6, L5), but OPTA have gone one further.
‘Man United have won just one of their last 17 PL matches when they’ve enjoyed more possession than their opponents (W1, D8, L8).’
So, it could prove to be a frustrating afternoon for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, similar to the one they encountered at St James’ Park. That day they had 68% possession, yet only recorded three shots on target in the 1-0 defeat.
The betting angles
What feels like many moons ago, Man United would brush this Newcastle team aside comfortably, but that’s not the case these days. Although the Red Devils have lost just once at Old Trafford, they’ve struggled to put teams to the sword.
It was a good point to take off runaway leaders Liverpool but dropped points against Everton (15th), Aston Villa (18th), Arsenal (11th) and Crystal Palace (12th) show that lack of killer instinct.
At the other end, David de Gea is lacking confidence, as shown by the concession of the opening goal at Watford, and Man United haven’t kept a clean sheet at Old Trafford in the league since September.
That brings Newcastle into the equation and they’ll be tough to break down, so I’d be looking at them in the Asian Handicap. Newcastle +1 is odds-against across the board and I don’t see them getting blown away, so a refund would be the worst-case scenario.
At the time of writing, just Sky Bet had priced up the player passing/shots/tackles markets. None held much appeal, so here are a couple of other potential nuggets.
The first one surrounds Luke Shaw and the potential Newcastle team news. If he’s up against Christian Atsu then there’s a card angle for the Man United left-back to be looked at.
The 24-year-old struggled up against the quick Ismail Sarr. The pace of Atsu on the break is something Newcastle could utilise, which would make Shaw the prime candidate.
On Sunday, Shaw completed six tackles and was cautioned, so 16/5 (bet365) is worth noting with him having four cards in seven against Newcastle – that’s more than against any other opposition.
The other angle involves a frustrated Joelinton. In the away game at Burnley, he played on the left instead of the lone forward and could well be positioned out there once more.
It’s just one goal in 18 appearances for the £40 million man, who has a shooting accuracy of just 22%.
But one thing I noticed in his stats was the fact he’s been caught offside 12 times, which ranks him 9th in the Premier League.
That laziness, or ill-discipline, could be seen once more against a Man United defence that should be able to hold a high line with how deep the visitors will sit.
This isn’t a market I tend to look at, but when Joelinton has been caught offside against Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool (x2) and Man City (x2) amongst the list.
Some of the top teams the Solskjaer’s side should be competing with have managed to get the offside trap to work against Joelinton, as did the Red Devils at St James’ Park.
At 13/8 with Sky Bet, it’s worth a small stake that the Brazilian gets caught offside.