In the wake of Manchester United’s draw with Aston Villa, all of the red half of Manchester and fans across the globe are hoping for a return to winning ways when the club take on Newcastle on Boxing Day. While the result wasn’t the worst possible, the two points dropped and the somewhat lackluster performance irked a lot of fans. The only consolation came from Radamel Falcao’s headed equalizer that proved to fans the Columbian is still a deadly force. United will want to move on from the draw which manager, Louis Van Gaal, described as “very frustrating”, and there is no greater opportunity for that than a home fixture on Boxing Day.
Last season, the Tyneside team were the victors at Old Trafford, condemning United to their first ever consecutive home defeats in the Premier League with Yohan Cabaye scoring the only goal of the game just after the hour mark. This season however, much has changed since Moyes was in charge and a sizeable portion of the Old Trafford faithful might see this as an opportunity to exact revenge and exorcise the ghosts of last season. Newcastle has suffered a sudden dip in form, losing their last two games after defeating league leaders Chelsea on the back of an impressive run of wins in November. While many do not expect them to defeat United at Old Trafford, the Premier League has shown that there are no guarantees.
United will march onto the turf on Boxing Day, boasting some of the best attacking talents in the World. Angel Di Maria is widely expected to start after fully recovering from his injury while Falcao is also expected to feature in the starting line up again. Fans are hoping Herrera and Fellaini recover from their illness in time for the game as Herrera’s vision and Fellaini’s physical presence were missed in the game at Villa Park. David De Gea featuring is a no brainer following a string of impressive performances, and fans will be hoping that United put in the sort of performances that ensured Newcastle didn’t win a single game at Old Trafford from 1972 to 2013.
The Red Devils will have to be wary of Papiss Cisse, who has been performing successfully as an impact striker of some sort this season with seven goals already. United defenders also need to be wary of Ayoze Perez and Emmanuel Riviere who have been influential for Newcastle and have ten goals between them. Rafael is expected to make a comeback against Newcastle after Van Gaal declared that the right full back had been fit for a week. Rojo and Smalling are expected to miss the game giving room for Evans and Jones to continue at centre back although many would agree that Evans must improve his game if he hopes to keep his place in the side. His stumble in the game against Villa gave Benteke the extra space needed to curl the ball into the back of the net. With Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett producing performances beyond their years and rumours of a centre back in January, Evans cannot afford to keep getting injured and/or performing poorly.
It will be interesting to see whether Van Gaal will revert to the 4-4-2 diamond formation which has been the most productive this season, or continue with his preferred 3-5-2. United have played some of their best football this season under the 4-4-2 formation and the return of Di Maria and Rafael means Van Gaal will surely have it under consideration.