Can Newcastle end 41-year Old Trafford hoodoo?

Posted by Marc Duffy

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesPapiss Cisse and Newcastle nearly soared to a Boxing Day victory last season at Old Trafford.

The last time Newcastle United left Old Trafford with a win against Manchester United was way back in February 1972, six years before I was born. Since then they have played out the fixture 29 times in the league with Newcastle's dismal record of eight draws and 21 defeats leaving the so called 'Theatre of Dreams' a place of nightmares for Geordies.

This time it can be different.

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It would be wrong to say that Manchester United are in crisis. The fact that their loss to Everton on Wednesday night was their first in any competition since September tells you that, but they don't look to be the team that they were last season and for many years beforehand.

The task will always be difficult. In fact, Manchester United have not lost consecutive home league games since December 2001 (to Chelsea and West Ham), but with their weakest midfield in decades and key absences in the form of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, the task of beating them is far from impossible.

Alan Pardew has been pretty negative in the build-up (as he so often is). His sound bites have included:

"I think there'll be a reaction from Man United to their defeat.

"It's still a very daunting place to go. There's an aura about it, it's a great stadium to go and play and be lucky enough to be the manager to take a team there.

"It is still a very difficult place to win."

All of these comments were made in one press conference and while everything that Pardew says is true, I find his constant airing of the difficulties Newcastle face before each and every game to be tiresome. The vast majority of people (players included) know it will be tough and would benefit from hearing positives such as how Newcastle -- if they approach the game correctly and not like they did at Swansea on Wednesday -- have a midfield that is more than capable of controlling the game.

The Red Devils’ midfield pairing of Ryan Giggs and Marouane Fellaini came in for a lot of criticism for their display in the Everton loss. Tom Cleverley will probably come into the team, but he is another player who won't scare Cheick Tiote or Yohan Cabaye. Win that midfield battle, win the game.

Rooney and Van Persie will be absent and even though Javier Hernandez is a capable deputy, this is still another real positive for the visitors.

There will be changes to the Newcastle line-up. It is highly unlikely that Shola Ameobi will be able to play a third game in eight days so Hatem Ben Arfa or Papiss Cisse, sickness and injury permitting, will be brought in to replace him. There might be a change at centre-back to -- Mike Williamson was hauled off by Pardew in the Swansea defeat which suggests Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa may be in line for a recall.

As for the 41 year drought -- Everton hadn't won there in over 20 years before Wednesday. The past is the past and the team can't dwell on it. Manchester United are no longer the all-conquering, Sir Alex Ferguson inspired team they once were.

Earlier Friday I heard a bookmaker on the radio mention that one punter has placed a bet on Newcastle winning 7-1 with Cabaye first scorer at odds of 2,500-1!

Now THAT is optimism! Although that scoreline did occur back in 1927!

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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