FOOTBALL journalist Adam Goodwin (@adamgoodwin__ ) shares his verdict on Newcastle's showdown against Manchester United at St James' Park on Wednesday night.
Newcastle v Manchester United | Wednesday 2nd January 2018, 20:00 | Sky Sports
Last week, Rafa Benitez admitted that it’d be “a miracle” if Newcastle avoided relegation this season, but the Magpies picked up an admirable draw against Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Salomon Rondon scored with one of Newcastle’s two shots on target, but that point moved them three points clear of the bottom three.
I never like opposing Newcastle at home, but looking at their form at St James’ Park, it’s not that great. They’ve won just two of their 10 home games this season (Watford and Bournemouth), drawing one and losing seven.
However, when playing against the Big Six, they’ve put in some admirable performances. They’ve played Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea at home this season, and commendably lost 2-1 on all three occasions.
Joselu equalised in the games against Chelsea and Tottenham, with Ciaran Clark scoring a late consolation against the Gunners. And Newcastle actually won this fixture 1-0 against Manchester United last season, so perhaps Bentiez’s side will be ready to step up to the occasion once again.
Rejuvenated Red Devils
The Red Devils have turned into a completely different side under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and, with his side scoring 12 goals in his opening three games as United manager. Admittedly, Cardiff, Huddersfield and Bournemouth wasn’t the sternest test for the Norwegian, but he’ll undoubtedly be happy to get through his first few games unscathed.
It’s hard to focus on anything else other than Solskjaer’s first three games because I don’t think results under Jose Mourinho really tell us anything about this United side, at the moment.
They’ve dominated possession in all three games, expectedly winning the shot count too. But they’ve conceded 26 shots in those games, highlighting the need for some defensive improvement.
Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have all the shackles off them and, unsurprisingly, have started to perform. Solskjaer is no miracle worker, but he’s the change the club needed.
The betting angle
Under Mourinho, I probably would’ve been tempted to back Newcastle here but, as I said, United are a completely different team, at the moment.
I don’t think it’ll be easy, however, and I think Newcastle will put up a fight, just like they’ve done against the other top teams that have come to St James’ Park this season. So, I’m going to be backing Manchester United to be winning by exactly one goal at 17/5 with Sport Nation.
I know they’ve been battering sides of late, but I think it’s got to the stage now where Solskjaer will be happy to start grinding out three points, because they can’t carry on thrashing teams by 3/4 every week!
I’ll also have a small play on the 2-1, seeing as it’s landed in Newcastle’s last three games against the top sides at home. United’s defence is still woeful so there’s no reason why they won’t bag here. The correct score is 8/1 with Bet365.
Newcastle v Manchester United – Manchester United to win by exactly one goal (17/5 Sport Nation)
Newcastle v Manchester United – Manchester United to win 2-1 (8/1 Bet365)