They may share the same name, but Manchester and Newcastle are anything but United at the moment.
The men in the red shirts are enduring their worst start to a league season in 30 years, while former Old Trafford icon Steve Bruce has steered the side bedecked famously in black and white stripes to just one win from his opening seven Premier League games in charge.
This fixture used to be one of the standout games of the season. The only thing that will stand out, however, is the smell of desperation in the air as two teams desperate for a win meet at St James’ Park.
CHASING THAT WINNING FEELING
A meeting of the league’s two worst form teams?
United’s 11th place position might suggest safety when compared to the hosts who are down in the basement – they’re just two points above rock bottom Watford. But these two are in dire need of both victory and an injection of morale.
The Magpies were flying high after an away win at Tottenham – and thoroughly deserved one – followed narrow defeats to Arsenal and Norwich. But since then they’ve won none in four and come into Sunday’s contest on the back of a humiliating 5-0 thrashing at Leicester that midfielder Sean Longstaff branded “embarrassing” – he had actually prefaced that with a sterner word.
The Magpies will look skyward rather enviously at United, sat four points above them on nine, but there is no-one at Old Trafford feeling sky-high following a wretched start to 2019/20.
Back in the 1989/90 campaign United amassed seven points from their opening seven matches and finished 14th. Sir Alex Ferguson was into his third season as manager and the vultures were circling, but he was given time.
It is a very different time now and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not be afforded as much rest bite. It is the same old, same old for Red Devils fans, even if Solskjaer has the excuse of this genuinely being a team in transition, and a young one at that.
But he needs to win, and fast.
But so too does opposite number and Red Devils legend Bruce. Neither manager will care how they get them, but both simply have to get the three points.
LUKE’S FUTURE NOT SO SHAW
Brandon Williams may not ring a bell with anyone other than regular watchers and enthusiasts of United’s youth team, but his early steps into the senior set-up should be sending alarm bells ringing in Luke Shaw’s ears.
Boxing is in Williams’ blood – his cousin Zelfa Barrett is a Commonwealth champion. And his own combative, aggressive streak is evidenced by the fact that in a pre-season friendly against Accrington Stanley he got sent off for a headbutt on Sean McConville after the Accy captain aimed a punch the 19-year-old’s way.
It displayed a fighting spirit which he again showed on Thursday night when squaring up to Dani de Wit in United’s 0-0 Europa League draw with AZ Alkmaar.
In an otherwise featherweight performance from the Red Devils, Williams paraded around like a heavyweight – charging up and down the left flank with fiendish pace and making two tackles, which was joint highest among team-mates. He also touched the ball more times (89) than any colleague.
In dark times, his performance – on his first start and only second appearance – was nearly as bright as the luminous orange numbering on United’s black strip.
Shaw is recovering from injury, a familiar theme during his United career. But at a time when youngsters are coming to the fore and with his own suspect defensive capabilities and constant fitness issues of increasing concern, how long before Solskjaer – a champion of youth – rings the bell on Shaw’s Old Trafford tenure?
WONDERBOY RASHFORD NEEDS TO FLY
Marcus Rashford is not 22 until the end of the month, but fans and critics debate whether he can still be considered a young player.
He’s 21, of course he’s still young. But while he’s youthful in terms of years, he is pretty experienced when it comes to football.
It is now more than three years since the Wythanshawe wonder boy burst onto the scene with two goals against Danish minnows Midtjylland, aged 18, in the Europa League.
He followed that up with another brace days later on his Premier League bow against Arsenal on his way to a sensational introductory season, which included eight goals in 18 appearances, five in the league.
And yet, in three full campaigns since he has not fully kicked on. He barely broke double figures in the Premier League for the first time last term, scoring 10 in 33 appearances.
It is all the more frustrating because he has all the attributes needed to shine as the next great Old Trafford forward – pace, flair, trickery, power and ingenuity.
It’s easy to mitigate for the 34-times capped England international. He has so much promise and, in truth, this is his first full season not living in the considerable shadows of either Zlatan Ibrahimovich or Romelu Lukaku.
But it’s also easy to magnify his shortcomings – especially at a huge club like United who are enduring a miserable start to 2019/20.
Rashford’s 48 United goals before his 22nd birthday put him ahead of superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Raheem Sterling – who had 47 and 39 respectively before hitting 22. Harry Kane had 52.
But in darkening times for his club, Rashford is expected – and not unfairly – to be a beacon of light. Patience is a virtue in short commodity these days at Old Trafford and around United strongholds like Wythanshawe.
The wonder boy needs to spread his wings and fly.
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