The Red’s play host to Newcastle United on Boxing Day following last weekends disappointing 1-1 draw at Villa Park. Louis Van Gaals’s side will be looking to continue this seasons good home form against a Newcastle side who faced heartache last weekend following a late Adam Johnson goal in the Tyneside derby. In the same fixture just two years ago the Red’s came out top following a later Javier Hernandez goal in a 4-3 thriller. Louis Van Gaal will of course also have one mind on the tough trip to Spurs just two days later.
The team news ahead of Friday’s game is that Luke Shaw is still unavailable with an ankle injury whilst Ander Herrera is also sidelined and Marcos Rojo still remains a doubt with a thigh injury. Marouane Fellaini is also expected to be ruled out again with injury whilst Daley Blind is still out with his long term knee injury. On the positive front, Chris Smalling looks to have recovered from his groin injury picked up against Southampton. Here’s how the Red’s could line up on Boxing Day:
United’s player of the season so far David De Gea will of course line up in between the sticks again. The Spaniard could do little to prevent Benteke’s goal last weekend but has been on superb form and there are heavy rumours that he will be offered a new contract in the coming weeks.
After last weekend’s disappointing draw away at Aston Villa I expect Van Gaal to revert back to centre backs on Friday to adopt a more attacking approach against a Newcastle side who have suffered defeat in their last three games. As a result Phil Jones is likely to feature in the centre of defence having successfully returned from injury the last few weeks and I expect Jonny Evans to continue alongside him despite his poor showing last weekend. Although it appears Chris Smalling has recovered from his groin injury I expect him to take his place on the United bench.
With Luke Shaw still out injured Ashley Young will undoubtedly continue in the left-back slot. The Englishman has been in good form and will hope to grab another assist similar to that at Villa Park on Saturday. With Rafael back on the bench in the previous game I expect the Brazilian to get the nod at right-back with Antonio Valencia being dropped to the bench.
Michael Carrick will of course feature in the centre of midfield this Boxing Day. The 33-year-old has been instrumental in the side since returning from injury and he will more than likely play another crucial role on Friday. Alongside him I expect Van Gaal to utilise Wayne Rooney a bit deeper again due to Herrera, Blind and Fellaini all missing. Darren Fletcher should expect to lose his place in the side having been substituted against Aston Villa following a poor showing.
I have a feeling Van Gaal will opt to use two natural wingers this Friday as well so Angel Di Maria should start having come off the bench in Birmingham on the weekend. On the right hand side Adnan Januzaj may well get another chance to show what he is all about as Van Gaal looks to take the game to Newcastle and start scoring a few more goals.
Radamel Falcao will be rewarded with a second successive start following his superb header on Saturday at Villa Park. If the Columbian can stay fit he will undoubtedly become a crucial player in the second half of the season. Alongside the number nine Robin Van Persie is also more than likely to feature although don’t be surprised if he doesn’t play the whole game with a trip to Spurs just two days later.
Predicted Starting XI:
Rafael, Jones, Evans, Young;
Januzaj, Di Maria;
Falcao, Van Persie.