The dreaded international break for Premier League fans is coming to a close and the league will be back up and running. The opponent for United could not be a better coming back/warm-up game, Newcastle.
Newcastle are a weird side, someone would even call them dysfunctional. The reports of dysfunction and Newcastle going down were all the rave in the months of March and April until some great form towards the end of the season saved Newcastle from a relegation scrap.
Newcastle only have a point from their first three games. A 2-2 draw their last time out against Southampton, a common opponent for both United and Newcastle. Newcastle was also unlucky to draw Burnley in the league cup, falling in pens.
Their response to getting knocked out of the League Cup was the draw against Southampton. Newcastle were unlucky to lose, they were pegged back twice and gave up the last goal deep in stoppage time by conceding a penalty.
Newcastle operate in the 5-3-2 on paper. It fluctuates and really is more of a 3-1-4-2 because Matt Ritchie and Jacob Murphy in their career have been deployed in more offensive positions with Newcastle and their previous clubs, they are not wing-backs, but they are also not wingers.
In the middle Isaac Hayden will look to drop deep in that six role and Miguel Almiron and Joe Wilock will roam and provide mainly attacking support. Wilock has been a game changer for Newcastle, the club made him a permanent signing in the summer after impressing on loan in the second half of the season from Arsenal.
Wilock was the only business the club had in the window to the dismay of Newcastle fans. The business was defended by the club in a statement. Wilock is a wild card for Manchester United, if United are not smart in the middle they can lose track of Wilock. Wilock’s main position is in the midfield maybe as a roaming 8, but could play forward, he scored 8 goals for Newcastle in 14 games since joining in January and was popping up all over the place.
Wilock and Almiron are great underneath Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin. When the forwards are fit Newcastle can be a problem. Wilson provides that direct threat, if the ball is at his feet in the box, the shot will likely be on target. Saint-Maximin provides that directness along with flash and the ability to take defenders on.
Contrary to what people may think about Newcastle’s tactics, they do have a plan and it is not that bad. Send in crosses with Ritchie and Murphy to let Wilson attack and have Wilock get to the back post and slip his marker. Get Saint-Maximin and Almiron on the ball to take on defenders opening up the quick switches, putting defenders in bad situations.
Offensive tactics are not bad, defense is a problem for Newcastle. This season they have already given up 8 goals, last season they gave up 62 goals, only four other clubs were worse defensively. Newcastle decided not to upgrade their defense after such a poor campaign last season and will rely on continuity.
Fabian Schar, Jamal Lascelles, Federico Fernandez, Ciaran Clark and Emil Krafth are the main defensive options with the ladder two on the bench after giving up four goals to West Ham in their opener. It seems like Newcastle may not have the right players for their defensive tactics.
No team plays the 3-center back formation better than Man City and another good example is England, what they both have in common is Kyle Walker. City will have Cancelo playing the wing-back next to Walker and England will use Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James. All great players, that is why they do have success in the formation.
Walker knows when to stay and go in defense. When to press the winger, when to stay with the full back when they overlap. Fabian Schar struggles at times. If Murphy and Wilock are too high up the pitch that could leave Schar on an island. The winger now has complete control of the situation, he can take Schar on and drive to the line or play the quick pass inside and the switch is on.
Aston Villa exploited Newcastle often with Ashley Young and Anwar El Ghazi. Manchester United could also take advantage of Newcastle’s defense with Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho on the left. Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could also get involved when the switch is on. Long shots and the opportunity to play a teammate in could be abundant for the playmakers.
They have the ability to change it up and if their original game plans do not workout they could add a player like Jonjo Shelvey, Ryan Fraser and Joelinton off the bench. Not the worst options off the bench.
Man Utd Team News and Presser
It is going to be Ronaldo’s first game at Old Trafford since 2009 and manage Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed this during his press conference.
“He’s been having a good pre-season with Juventus, he’s played for the national team, he’s had a good week with us here. He’ll definitely be on the pitch at some point, that’s for sure.”
“He’s developed into one of the most accurate finishers that I’ve seen. He’s one of the best in the air, his timing, desire to get on the end of crosses is second to none. He still hits the target 99 times out of 100 as well when he shoots outside of the box. He knows the game more, he knows which positions to drop into and when to run in behind and he’s still as quick, it looks like from the stats, and he’s a shining leading star, everyone’s going to look up to him. He’s going to be a leader in this dressing room.”
There could be some late fitness tests for some United players who did play late in the international break as well as picking up some slight injuries.
“Jadon has come back in with a minor knock but he’s trained the last couple of days. He’s disappointed he couldn’t play for England but determined to be fit and he’s available. So that’s a positive. Cristiano has trained all week so he’s available. The international break, we didn’t get anyone injured. Luke, Harry and Victor played late on Wednesday night so they’ve not had a lot of recovery but they will be available I think.”
United should be able to control the game on Saturday, but Newcastle could be up for the task of playing spoiler to what likely will be a joyous atmosphere at Old Trafford for the return of Ronaldo.