December 26, 2012
United changes a certainty
Team Stat Comparison
|Manchester United||Newcastle United|
|Goals for *||2.4||1.1|
|Goals against *||1.0||1.9|
|Last 5 home||W-L-W-L-W||L-L-L-W-W|
|Last 5 away||D-D-D-W-W||W-D-D-L-L|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: Manchester United | Newcastle United|
|Manchester United||Newcastle United|
|12/7||H: Newcastle United||12/7||A: Manchester United|
|12/15||A: Aston Villa||12/14||H: Southampton|
|12/21||H: West Ham United||12/21||A: Crystal Palace|
|12/26||A: Hull City||12/26||H: Stoke City|
|12/28||A: Norwich City||12/29||H: Arsenal|
Sir Alex Ferguson is certain to make changes for Manchester United's Boxing Day encounter with Newcastle.
United's failure to beat Swansea saw their advantage in the Premier League title race trimmed to four points.
Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez, Chris Smalling and Darren Fletcher will be amongst those hoping to be involved, while Rafael needs to shrug off the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Liberty Stadium encounter.
Jonny Evans remains wary of Newcastle's African jewels despite the Magpies' woeful recent form.
Alan Pardew's men secured only their second win in 12 games with an unconvincing display against QPR on Saturday.
Whereas last season they were scoring goals for fun, this time around it has been far harder, and rather than challenging for a Champions League spot, they have been nervously looking over their shoulders at the drop zone.
But Evans does not feel that is a reason for Manchester United to take it easy at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
The Northern Ireland international knows Senegal duo Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse can cause problems for any defence.
"Those guys are both very powerful,'' said Evans.
"What Newcastle do very well is work the ball wide and put it in the box.
"A lot of their goals come that way because Ba and Cisse don't give you a minute.
"When the ball is floating around in the box, they beat people in the air and their goal record is what got Newcastle to where they were last year.''
United have already beaten the Geordies' twice this term, including in the Premier League at St James' Park with what many feel is still their best 90-minute performance of the campaign.
Evans was one of them men on target, and he accepts it was a performance that set a standard which needs to be followed.
"In the last couple of seasons we have gone away to places like Newcastle and either lost or drawn,'' he said.
"This time it was very important to win. We were well prepared, had the right mindset and defended well.
"With the goals as well it was one of our best performances of the season.''
Pardew will be without midfielder Cheick Tiote.
The Ivory Coast international collected his fifth booking of the season against QPR and is suspended.
Otherwise, Pardew will have only his long-term absentees missing for the game at Old Trafford, with Hatem Ben Arfa, Steven Taylor (both hamstring), Yohan Cabaye (groin) and Ryan Taylor (knee) sidelined.
Pardew has warned Ferguson there will be two angry managers in the dug-outs.
The Scot was apoplectic after the draw at Swansea which saw the leaders drop two precious points, but also striker Robin van Persie react furiously after being struck in the back of the head by the ball when defender Ashley Williams blasted it into him as he lay on the ground.
Ferguson later voiced the opinion that the Dutchman could have been killed in the incident and called for retrospective action to be taken, and he was not placated by Williams' insistence that it had been accidental.
All in all, he was not a happy man as he left South Wales, but Pardew has admitted he is still smarting too despite ending a run of six league defeats in seven attempts with the win over QPR.
He said: "I'm not happy either. Although we have won, the away form hasn't been great, so there will be two teams with a little bit to prove, two managers smarting a little bit with their teams.
"It will make for a really professional game. Sometimes on Boxing Day, you can get a loose game - I don't think this will be."