Erik ten Hag has a few decisions to make as to who will be in his starting line-up for tonight’s trip to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United in the Premier League.
There is a question mark over Andre Onana’s position after three howlers against Galatasaray on Wednesday almost surely condemned United to Europa League football – at best – this season.
However, Ten Hag’s comments at yesterday’s press conference suggest he will stick by the Cameroonian, at least for the time being.
Right back is always a hard one to predict when both Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are fit. The Englishman was chosen against Gala but Dalot played last weekend.
The fact is that Ten Hag views Wan-Bissaka as the better player defensively but when a team ships three goals, albeit from goalkeeping errors, then a defensive shake-up might be called for. We are predicting Dalot’s return for that reason, but it’s a toss up.
Likewise Wednesday’s indisciplined performance could leave a question mark over the Harry Maguire-Victor Lindelof partnership, especially as the world class Raphael Varane has been waiting in the wings for a return. But it is expected that Ten Hag will stick by the long-established partnership against Newcastle.
Luke Shaw is the only member of the defence who looks almost certain to keep his place.
Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia are still long term injuries.
In midfield, another really disappointing performance from the struggling Sofyan Amrabat should mean that Kobbie Mainoo is recalled after his excellent performance against Everton on his Premier League debut last week. He will almost certainly partner Scott McTominay as the rest of the midfield options are unavailable.
Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Mason Mount are all injured. Mount is back in training but Ten Hag hinted that he would not be ready in time.
With Donny van de Beek having one foot out of the club, it’s bare bones unless Bruno Fernandes is brought into a deeper role, which has an outside chance of happening.
Up front, Antony returned against Gala and did reasonably well. Marcus Rashford will be fresh after missing that game through suspension. It could be that Alejandro Garnacho is rested for this one despite being hands down United’s best winger in recent games. This would simply be for protection as playing too many games at a young age could lead to problems.
Rasmus Hojlund is expected to start up front as he looks for his first Premier League goal.
With all that in mind, here is our predicted XI for tonight’s 8pm kick-off: