The Big Match Tactical View: Newcastle v Manchester United

Louis van Gaal shows no sign of making his tactics more attractive
Louis van Gaal shows no sign of making his tactics more attractive
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Tuesday's live offering is a clash of two Uniteds, neither of whom been scoring much recently - who will make the running here? Michael Cox looks at the tactics, while Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown...

"We all know about Manchester United’s lack of goals, while Newcastle have managed to lose their last four matches 1-0."

Newcastle v Manchester United
Tuesday 19:45,
Live on BT Sport 1

Match Odds: Newcastle 5.04/1, Manchester United 1.875/6, The Draw 3.711/4.

Predictable pattern

Neither of these sides have been performing well recently, and go into this match having won one, drawn one, and lost three of their last five. However, whereas Newcastle's results have worsened during that period, Manchester United have slightly improved.

The tactical battle here is entirely predictable. Louis van Gaal insists his side dominate possession in every game, holding the ball high up the pitch in the final third, but taking frustratingly few risks. It's incredible that the Red Devils average the highest possession share in the league, but attempt just the 14th-highest number of shots, and the 14th-highest number of dribbles.

Newcastle will make no attempt to out-pass the away side. Instead they'll sit back in two banks of four and attempt to counter-attack quickly into space. Van Gaal's side have a fine defensive record, although in recent weeks they've been unusually prone to breaks down the flanks.

Magpies less flighty

In terms of selection, Steve McClaren will name the same backline which only went down to late Laurent Koscielny goal in the aftermath of a set-piece in a 1-0 defeat at the Emirates, Newcastle's last league outing. The defence has improved significantly in recent weeks, partly because they've tucked inside and played narrow, and partly because the midfield has screened them better.

However, there will be concerns about Daryl Janmaat, who has been a great attacking force this season but doesn't like playing against quick, direct opponents. Anthony Martial should start on United's left - Memphis Depay is the alternative - and either way, Janmaat will be forced to cope with speed.

Both Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita have had knocks in recent weeks, so it remains to be seen which of them partners Cheick Tiote in a tough-tackling and very defensive-minded midfield duo.

Out wide, Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum will be the players primarily concerned with counter-attacking. The former tends to hug the right touchline somewhat unconvincingly, and might take lessons from Wijnauldum, who surges forward into inside-left positions and provides a goal threat. The quicker Newcastle get the ball to these two, the more dangerous they'll be.

Upfront, McClaren is likely to field Ayoze Perez just behind Aleksandar Mitrovic. Previously these two were used as Newcastle's substitutes, but they've emerged ahead of misfiring Papiss Cisse and Siem de Jong in the pecking order, and provide pace which will worry Manchester United's backline.

Attacking poser for LVG

Van Gaal's side should see Morgan Schneiderlin coming back into the side after missing the narrow FA Cup win over Sheffield United - Bastian Schweinsteiger is expected to miss out through injury. Daley Blind seems likely to partner Chris Smalling at the back.

With Wayne Rooney upfront, it's three from four out of Depay, Martial, Mata and Herrera in the three positions just behind. All very different players, this combination will define how United approach this match.

Mata might struggle to influence the game centrally against a Newcastle side that pack that zone, so he could play from the right with Ander Herrera playing at the top of the midfield trio.

We all know about Manchester United's lack of goals, while Newcastle have managed to lose their last four matches 1-0. All things considered, don't expect a classic.

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Newcastle were dumped out of the FA Cup in the third round for the fourth consecutive season and, following their four consecutive 1-0 defeat, have failed to score in their last 412 minutes of football.

The Magpies are third bottom of the Premier League and, with five of the current top seven sides still to play at St James’ Park, face a tough task in picking up the home points they'll need to stay up. The two sides they have faced at home so far out the top seven are Arsenal and Leicester; they lost on both occasions to nil and have only kept two clean sheets at home all season (Liverpool 2-0, Stoke 0-0).

Man Utd made it into the fourth round draw but it took a 93rd minute Wayne Rooney penalty to avoid a replay against Sheffield United as it looked like they were heading for yet another 0-0 draw this campaign.

The Red Devils may have the best home defensive record in the Premier League but, away from home, they have conceded 13 goals, only kept three clean sheets and are without a win in their last three. Louis van Gaal is under intense pressure so perhaps a trip to happy hunting ground St James’ Park is just what is required. Man Utd have won on their last three visits, keeping a clean sheet in all three and have scored eight times in the process.

While the recent head-to-head record doesn’t look good for Newcastle, this is a Manchester United side who are severely lacking in confidence and, while I understand why the market has them odds on at 1.845/6, it’s a price I am happy to lay. Under 2.5 goals also offers a bit of value at 1.84/5 - I had it nearer 1.75/7 - but I realise it’s not a price to get overly excited about.

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