Red Devils set for more frustration on Tyneside

NEWCASTLE vs MANCHESTER UNTIED

SUNDAY 4pm

NEWCASTLE beat Manchester United 3-0 last season to end a 10-year winning drought against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. The Red Devils relinquished an even longer-standing record last Saturday when Tottenham tore them apart in the opening 45 minutes in a deserved 3-2 victory that put paid to a 23-year stint without a victory at Old Trafford.

A result like that had been threatening to happen over the past few weeks as United had somewhat fortuitously strung together a run of four straight league wins. They have not been helped by constant adjustments required to the back four with the fitness of Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling proving unreliable.

Yet again, United had to do it the hard way after more sloppy defending allowed Cluj to take an early lead. However, Wayne Rooney continued his rehabilitation by getting 90 minutes under his belt and the blossoming partnership with Robin van Persie looks set for big things. There will be major concerns for United given that was the sixth time in nine matches they have conceded first, although no club has come from behind more to earn victories or draws this campaign.

It’s clear that United have no worries in attack as they have already bagged 19 goals since August. Van Persie has contributed eight of those, but it’s the back line that is jeopardising United’s title aspirations

Although Newcastle have not been at their fluid best either, they thrive in front of their passionate home support and will look to make life extremely uncomfortable for the visitors. The Magpies have struggled to find much consistency domestically and have secured only two league wins, although both came on Tyneside.

Demba Ba has responded in the best possible fashion to being benched for the Everton match earlier this season by scoring all of Newcastle’s last five league goals. He also tore United apart on their last visit here when he got the scoring started with a sublime strike.

Alan Pardew’s side have a tendency to move the ball from back to front without much deliberation and this is an area where the Magpies can gain success against a susceptible centre-back pairing. Newcastle have the weapons to score, but United can more than match that in the attacking stakes. The hosts have drawn three of their last four league games this season, so back another stalemate at 13/5 with Coral.

Each side has only kept one clean sheet from their six league fixtures and, considering that, spread bettors should buy goals at 2.8 with Sporting Index. At around 14/1 with Coral, the 2-2 correct score makes some appeal.

■ Pointers…
Draw at 13/5 with Coral
2-2 correct score at 14/1 with Coral
Buy total goals at 2.8 with Sporting Index