Both Newcastle and Manchester United are desperate for a good result after an awful week, and Kevin Hatchard believes the visitors will fall short...
"Manchester United have gone ten games without a win on the road, and they have scored a pitiful five goals in that sequence."
Newcastle United v Manchester United
Sunday 06 October, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports
To some people, losing popular manager Rafa Benitez and hiring Steve Bruce might feel like someone took your Playstation 4 in the middle of the night and replaced it with a ZX Spectrum. However, as wise gamers of a certain age know, the Spectrum has its uses. Newcastle are second from bottom in the Premier League, and the Magpies are trading at [1.96] in the Relegation market, but I think there are mitigating circumstances.
Firstly, Newcastle have had an incredibly tough fixture list, with Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester all hurled at them in the first seven games. They beat Spurs, led at Liverpool, and only lost 1-0 to Arsenal. Their 5-0 mauling at Leicester City last weekend looks horrendous on paper, but they played more than half of the game with ten men after Isaac Hayden had been sent off.
Newcastle have drawn their last two games at home, and if you stretch back into last season, they have lost just three of the last nine PL games at St James's Park. Bruce is in defiant mood, insisting he can deal with the criticism that comes his way, and that he is determined to turn the season around. There is a certain tragedy about they way Bruce has largely been perceived by Magpies' fans - he is a supporter himself, and this is his dream job.
Bruce has been boosted by the return to training of striker Dwight Gayle, while mercurial winger Allan Saint-Maximin is fit enough for a starting spot. Midfield schemer Jonjo Shelvey is also fit.
Solskjaer pleading for patience
It was the plastic pitch. It was the referee. AZ just beat Feyenoord 3-0, so it's a good point. Just some of the justifications and explanations from Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after his side escaped from a Europa League trip to AZ Alkmaar with a goalless draw, having not managed a single shot on target. Yes, United fielded a number of talented youngsters, and their deployment is the currency their Norwegian manager is spending nowadays, but this was wretched stuff against a side that teams like Liverpool and Manchester City would totally overwhelm.
Even if we accept that this is a long-term project which will require ongoing faith and patience, there is little on the horizon to excite. Since United won 3-1 at Paris Saint Germain in a famous Champions League comeback, the Red Devils have played ten away games in all competitions. They haven't won any of them, and they have scored just five goals. By any standards, this is pitiful, and PSG coach Thomas Tuchel must wake up screaming at the thought that his UCL dream was ended by such a limited side.
Paul Pogba continues to be a lightning rod for criticism, but the numbers don't justify the opprobrium he regularly faces. Since the start of last season the World Cup winner has delivered 13 Premier League goals and 11 assists, and there's a suspicion that he hasn't been fully fit because of a persistent ankle injury. If he was played further forward, as he was in a very successful spell at Juventus, it's possible he could do even more damage. However, he has unfairly become the poster boy for a frustrating era littered with transfer market wastage, bad coaching hires and poor planning. As the great Chinese philosopher Confucius might have said, (he didn't) "a man who can get you a good toilet roll sponsor might not be able to sign a decent centre-forward."
Aaron Wan-Bissaka continues to struggle with illness, Pogba might miss out again, while a thigh injury continues to plague Anthony Martial.
Visitors too short to take the win
I can't get on board with backing Manchester United at [1.95], and in fact I'm happy to oppose them at that price. Newcastle haven't been quite as awful as their results suggest, they will look to be resolute, and recent results show there is something seriously wrong with injury-plagued Manchester United's attacking process away from home.
I'll lay Manchester United at [1.95].
Goals may be few and far between
Given that Manchester United aren't really scoring on the road, and that Newcastle have drawn a blank in three of their seven league games, you can see why Under 2.5 Goals is trading at [1.75]. Backing No in the Both Teams To Score market at [1.89] is also worth considering - that bet has paid out in four of Manchester United's last six games in all competitions, and three of Newcastle's last six.
Kevin Hatchard 2019-20 Premier League P/L
Points Staked: 12
Points Returned: 7.92
P/L: -4.08 points
Lay Manchester United at [1.95]