United: VDS, O’Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Giggs, Rooney, Chicharito.
Bench: Fabio, Evans, Valencia, Owen, Park, Gibson, Kuszczak.
Newcastle: Krul, Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Williamson, Barton, Guthrie, Lovenkrands, Simpson, Gutierrez, Ameobi Tiote.
Sunday’s game between Arsenal and Liverpool was a nice little gift for us. As soon as it became apparent there was going to be a lot of injury time after Jamie Carragher’s team mate knocked him out cold, you could have predicted that Arsenal were going to get a 98th minute winner. The fact it was a penalty just added insult to injury, their 16th of the season. An Arsenal win wasn’t the end of the world, there would still be four points between us, but with a trip to Emirates, a home game against the wounded Chelsea, as well as matches against the likes of Everton and Blackburn, we really could have done with them dropping points.
Then something magical happened. In the time added on thanks to Robin van Persie’s lengthy goal celebration after scoring the penalty, Liverpool earned themselves a penalty of their own. With no Steven Gerrard around to throw the game as he did against Chelsea last season, Dirk Kuyt stepped up to take the penalty and made it 1-1 with the last kick of the game. Brilliant.
Now, just three days after our semi-final disappointment, United have to get a result to put all the pressure back on Arsenal tomorrow ahead of their game against Spurs.
Stats from our newsletter show that United have won 14 and drawn 3 of our last 17 games against Newcastle in all competitions and Wayne Rooney has scored 9 goals in 11 games against them. Rooney will be raring to go after missing out on our game at Wembley and you wouldn’t bet against him continuing his great form and scoring again tonight.
After a poor performance against City, Dimitar Berbatov hasn’t even made the squad despite travelling with the team, which will certainly raise eye-brows. Is this punishment? Is he not in the right frame of mind? Is he injured? Have contract talks broken down? Given it was Michael Carrick’s slackness which cost United the goal and Paul Scholes’ moment of madness was excused post-match, it’s hard to believe the manager would seemingly put the blame at Berba’s doorstep. We’ll keep scanning for injury news but something isn’t right.
The most important thing tonight is three points though and the players we’ve got available should be more than able to get the job done. I wouldn’t complain if Michael Owen came off the bench to give the best fans in the country something to moan about either.