It must feel like ages since Manchester United fans last watched their team play a match.
The Red Devils are finally back on the pitch against Newcastle United after a pair of COVID-19 postponements, the first league match for the club since December 11. Mostly recovered from its own COVID-19 outbreak, Manchester United now sets its sights on a climb up the standings.
As a result of the layoff, Manchester United may sit seventh in the Premier League table, but the Red Devils are firmly in contention for a Champions League place. While it hasn’t always been pretty for the Red Devils under Ralf Rangnick, the team’s performances have shown a clear structure and intention, earning 1-0 wins over Crystal Palace and Norwich City in their last two before the unexpected break.
Newcastle, meanwhile, would be glad to take some time off – the festive fixtures have been anything but. An absolutely ruthless gauntlet of matches over the holiday season has resulted in comprehensive defeats to Leicester City, Manchester City, and Liverpool by a combined 11-1 score.
The schedule eases after the Manchester United match, but it will be important for the Magpies to establish a foundation on which to build heading into a key stretch through January and February that will almost surely decide their Premier League fate.
Sporting News will be following the event live and providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
Manchester United vs. Newcastle live score
(All times Eastern)
2:03 p.m. ET: Lineups are in. Full lineups below.
Eddie Howe makes a whopping eight changes from the Newcastle lineup that was thumped by Manchester City last time out, shuffling almost his entire defense and changing to a 4-2-3-1. Manchester United has a nearly 100% fit squad, meaning Raphael Varane comes back in at center-back, while Marcus Rashford moves out wide to allow Mason Greenwood to partner with Cristiano Ronaldo. Jadon Sancho is the odd man out, left to the bench.
1:36 p.m. ET: Your matchday program at St. James Park, if that’s your kind of thing.
1:33 p.m. ET: Boxing Day was an all-timer when it comes to goals scored. Will this match follow in those footsteps, or will it be less explosive?
1:25 p.m. ET: It’s not on Boxing Day proper, but Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick getting his first taste of managing around the Christmas holiday, and he’s looking forward to it.
1:00 p.m. ET: While the Newcastle boss looks focused on getting his team something to savor from a festive period otherwise fully Grinch’d, Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick discusses how he managed to keep the team sharp despite significant disruption due to COVID-19.
1:00 p.m. ET: Eddie Howe had a look back at Newcastle’s heyday in the late 90’s when the Magpies battled Manchester United for positions at the top of the table. The fixture doesn’t quite reach those levels as each occupies opposite ends of the standings.
Newcastle vs. Manchester United lineups
Newcastle makes a whopping eight changes from the heavy defeat to Manchester City, chief among them a return for Jonjo Shelvey, who has struggled with a lack of fitness and was the victim of some load management by manager Eddie Howe, but recovered enough to start today. Shelvey had previously played all but six minutes since returning from a two-month calf injury in late October.
Federico Fernandez and Jamal Lewis are both ruled out due to thigh problems, while Paul Dummett has returned to training but is not ready to see game minutes. Isaac Hayden is suspended for yellow card accumulation, meaning Sean Longstaff is introduced to the side. Allan Saint-Maximin is back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the last match due to a knock.
Newcastle starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Dubravka (GK); Krafth, Lascelles, Schar, Manquillo; Shelvey, Longstaff; Fraser, Joelintin, Saint-Maximin; Wilson.
Manchester United has dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak over the past few weeks, but it now appears to be a thing of the past, with no known players currently out with a positive COVID-19 test or lingering symptoms. That means manager Ralf Rangnick has a mostly fit squad to choose from, with only Paul Pogba still waiting to fully recover from his groin injury in November.
Anthony Martial, a potential January transfer departure, does not make the bench, but Aaron Wan-Bissaka returns among the substitutes. Raphael Varane is also available from his thigh injury in late November and starts.
Left back Luke Shaw hasn’t played since late November as well, and he is on the bench with Alex Telles holding down his starting left-back spot.
Man United starting lineup (4-4-2): De Gea (GK); Telles, Maguire, Varane, Dalot; McTominay, Fred, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo, Greenwood.
How to watch Manchester United vs. Newcastle
The Monday afternoon match between Manchester United and Newcastle from St. James’ Park will be broadcast on USA Network (English) and Universo (Spanish) in the USA.
Both channels can be streamed on fuboTV and new users can take advantage of a free 7-day trial.
Man United vs. Newcastle betting tips, picks
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Manchester United is obviously a heavy favorite, but not as heavy as one might expect going up against a squad that’s shipping goals across its Premier League schedule; the COVID-19 layoff seems to be weighing on bettors.
The Red Devils haven’t played in two weeks, and they’re also going to have a very difficult calendar to navigate in the coming months. For that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rangnick play a tad more conservatively in games the Red Devils don’t need a full frontal assault to collect all three points.
We’d have hoped for a bigger differential on the handicap, so the tastier option may be the total goals under. With three games in seven days, Man United could opt to manage the game — and its energies — against an opponent it should easily dominate. There are tougher fixtures on the horizon.
Pick: Under 2.5 total goals (+125)
Prediction: Newcastle 0, Manchester United 1
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