Only two places and three points separate the two behemoths in the standings at present, as the Red Devils sit pretty in third while the Magpies knock on the door in fifth.
Title talk may have been somewhat premature, but Newcastle’s Champions League destiny is in their own hands heading into the final straight – largely thanks to Tottenham Hotspur’s abysmal period as well as their upturn in fortunes just before the international break.
With no wins from five games between February and the beginning of March, the Magpies were not feeling the love during the Valentine’s period, but Eddie Howe’s crop scooped a pair of 2-1 victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest to reignite their glimmer of hope.
A delicate Emmanuel Dennis chip was in vain at the City Ground, as Alexander Isak’s brace kept Newcastle within touching distance of Tottenham, who are only two points better off than Howe’s side in fourth place having played two games more.
From a team that kept clean sheets for fun to one that have conceded in their last eight matches in all competitions, Newcastle are not the defensive force that they once were during the earlier stages of the campaign, and only two of their last five Premier League home games have ended in victory.
However, only Liverpool have got the better of Howe’s men on their own turf this term – and even then the 10 men of Newcastle gave the Reds quite the run for their money – so Man United must still have their wits about them against a Magpies side with an overriding desire for vengeance.
Top-flight endeavours arguably took a back seat for Man United just before the international break, as Erik ten Hag’s side came up trumps in their battles for Europa League and FA Cup supremacy against Real Betis and Fulham respectively.
After setting up a continental quarter-final with La Liga relegation candidates Sevilla, the Red Devils emerged victorious from a truly chaotic FA Cup last-eight clash with Fulham, whose master plan collapsed when Willian and Aleksandar Mitrovic were both given their marching orders.
Mitrovic had drawn first blood for the Cottagers before an inexcusable shove on referee Chris Kavanagh – the Serbian reacted angrily to Willian’s handball and subsequent sending off – as Bruno Fernandes converted the resulting penalty before completing his brace after a Marcel Sabitzer strike.
Dreams of a quadruple are surely too far-fetched for Man United, who played just twice in the Premier League in March – that 7-0 humiliation to Liverpool and goalless draw with Southampton – leaving them safely on the final podium spot and one point clear of Tottenham, who have played two games more.
While Newcastle have lost their defensive sparkle, Man United – rather incredibly – hold the fourth-worst defensive record on the road this season, with their total of 27 goals conceded only better than Bournemouth (38), Nottingham Forest (32) and Leicester City (30).
Tears streamed down the faces of Newcastle players and fans as Man United ended their six-year trophy drought with a 2-0 win in February’s EFL Cup final, and the Magpies are winless in their last six Premier League showdowns with their Manchester counterparts, but they came away from Old Trafford with a creditable point in a goalless stalemate back in October.
Newcastle United Premier League form:
Newcastle United form (all competitions):
Manchester United Premier League form:
Manchester United form (all competitions):
We say: Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester United
Man United may have put Newcastle to the sword at Wembley with ease, but the absence of Casemiro and a distinct lack of midfield depth should mean that lightning does not strike twice for Howe’s Champions League-chasers.
With the Magpies seldom suffering defeat in front of their own fans nowadays, a closely-fought draw could be on the cards – a result which neither manager will be overly satisfied with.