Newcastle play Manchester United for the second time in just over a week (4pm BST, Sunday) after the two old foes squared off in the slightly less important Capital One Cup.
That League Cup victory to Man Utd will not have counted for much as both teams gave opportunities to younger players in the squad to pick up valuable game time.
For Sir Alex Ferguson’s United, a Premier League victory this weekend is imperative for two reasons, firstly to regain momentum after their 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham last weekend and secondly to avenge the 3-0 mauling they received at the then St.James’s Park last year.
That defeat last weekend saw United slip to four points behind leaders Chelsea and anything other than victory this weekend could see that lead extended to six or seven points as Chelsea host lowly Norwich this Saturday.
The defeat to Tottenham was Man Utd’s second loss of the season in the Premier League after their opening day loss at Everton and they have not found anywhere near top gear. The fact that they have managed to win four out of their six games shows the quality of their squad but victories over Fulham, Liverpool and Southampton were far from comfortable.
The dream striking partnership of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie was tested for the first time this season on Tuesday against Cluj in the Champions League and it did see United to victory. The 2-1 victory was far tighter than expected and once again United conceded the first goal of the match, just as have in many games this season.
With Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones out injured Man Utd look weak at the back and for a neutral it is obvious why Roy Hodgson left Rio Ferdinand out of his most recent England squad. Besides their thrashing of Wigan, United have not won a match by more than one goal all season, in any competition.
After breaking a 10-year spell without beating Manchester United last year, Newcastle will be hoping to inflict more pain on Sir Alex Ferguson this Sunday. If Alan Pardew’s side play as they did on Thursday night in the Europa League then they will have no problems.
That 3-0 victory over Bordeaux was probably their best performance since they beat Tottenham on the opening day of the season and with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse finally working together, Man Utd’s back four could be in for a long afternoon.
Last year the deadly Senegalese strike force was criticised for failing to score goals at the same time: when one was red hot in front of goal the other could not seem to buy a goal. However this season they have both found the target with relative consistency and they could not choose a better time to face a defensively weak United side.
Newcastle have only lost once in the league this year, to Chelsea but they have been guilty of not closing out a number of games such as against Fulham, Reading and Aston Villa, all of which ended in draws. Had those gone Newcastle’s way then the Geordies would find themselves near the top of the pile but a win this Sunday would see them leapfrog Man Utd into the top four.