English Premier League

Manchester United v Newcastle United: Back Isak to sparkle at Old Trafford

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe
Eddie Howe's Newcastle are on the charge for Europe

Manchester United and Newcastle United are both battling for European places, and Kevin Hatchard believes the visitors are in better shape.

Betfair Superboost at Old Trafford

Since the turn of the year, Erik Ten Hag's side are facing, on average, 20.5 shots per game in the Premier League.

Arsenal (11) are the only side within their last 19 Premier League games not to hit the 16 mark, with Palace (18), Burnley (16), Chelsea (28) and Brentford (31) all firing shots at will in recent weeks against Man Utd.

Indeed, in the reverse fixture between the two earlier this season - a 1-0 win for Newcastle - the Magpies managed 22 attempts that day too.

You can back Eddie Howe's men to hit 16 or more in tonight's match at Old Trafford at the Superboost price of 1/12.00.

Manchester United v Newcastle United
Wednesday 15 May, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Red Devils embarrassed on and off the pitch

As a torrent of water cascaded down from the leaky Old Trafford roof on Sunday, it was impossible not to see the state of Manchester United's stadium as a symbol of the mismanagement and neglect that has characterised the Glazer era. Sir Alex Ferguson's brilliance papered over the cracks in the early years of the Americans' stewardship, but since then a series of managers have struggled to achieve consistent success, and a culture of inertia and disinterest has taken hold. When you look at the way Manchester City and Arsenal operate, with a forensic level of detail, United pale by comparison.

Things may be changing for the better in the next few years. Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS seem determined to at least appoint top executive talent, with the hope that the new leadership can drive meaningful change. It remains to be seen whether increasingly tetchy manager Erik ten Hag will survive the revolution.

Ten Hag's first season was encouraging, as United reached two cup finals, winning one of them. A return to the Champions League was a financial and psychological boost, and it felt like the club was at least on the right track.

However, this term has been a complete debacle. United finished bottom of their Champions League group, there is no clear tactical ideology (at least not one that Ajax fans would recognise from ten Hag's time in Amsterdam), and the team has suffered a staggering 14 Premier League defeats. Scrabbling around for a Europa League spot doesn't exactly chime with INEOS' pursuit of excellence.

Sunday's 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal was, in ten Hag's mind, an encouraging display against a title contender. The truth is that United managed just two shots on target, Casemiro looked awful at centre-back (why not just put Wan-Bissaka there?) and United put up an Expected Goals figure of just 0.51. United have now lost five of their last 11 league games.

United are still without a clutch of players. At time of writing, it's not clear whether Bruno Fernandes will return to action here. Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Mason Mount and Victor Lindelof could all miss the game, although the influential Lisandro Martinez is expected to push for a start.

Magpies have battled through the pain barrier

Like Manchester United, Newcastle United have had to deal with a crippling injury crisis for much of the campaign, and they also finished bottom of their Champions League group. There were whispers about Eddie Howe's job security, but the former Bournemouth boss has delivered a strong end to the campaign.

A run of six wins in ten has put Newcastle into the top six, and a draw in this game at Old Trafford will guarantee at least a top-seven finish, which could be enough for a European place. While the Magpies' defensive numbers have seriously declined this term, they have whacked in an impressive 79 goals in the league, a record only bettered by the top three.

Swedish striker Alexander Isak continues to be one of the league's top performers. The former Real Sociedad and Borussia Dortmund forward has bagged 20 top-flight goals in 28 appearances this term, he manages 1.42 shots on target per 90 and he is seventh in the league when it comes to non-penalty xG. That shows that Isak is regularly getting into good scoring positions.

Newcastle are still without a host of defenders including Sven Botman, Fabian Schär and Jamaal Lascelles. Midfielders Lewis Miley and Joe Willock are also missing.

Isak can at least test Onana twice

For all the reasons above, Isak will be a real danger to Manchester United, and the Red Devils are consistently giving up plenty of shots to their opposition. Manchester United are third-worst in the league when it comes to shots allowed, fifth-worst for shots on target conceded and fifth-worst in non-penalty xG allowed.

These dismal numbers should play into Isak's hands, so I'll back him to have at least two shots on target at 6/52.20. He has managed that in five of his last seven games in the Premier League.

I'll also put together a Bet Builder on the Betfair Sportsbook. I'll give Newcastle a +2 start on the Handicap (Manchester United have only won by two goals in four of their 36 Premier League matches, and I'll back Newcastle to have at least five shots on target. The final leg is backing Magpies midfielder Bruno Guimaraes to commit a foul - the Brazilian has been whistled for a foul 48 times in the league this term, putting him in the top 15 offenders.

That gives us a combined price of 2.186/5.

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