Manchester United, with three games in hand over most of the league and without game action since December 11 due to COVID-19 cases, finally returns to the pitch for the first time in 16 days.
The Red Devils have seen two straight matches postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks among their squad and others, and while they sit in seventh place on 27 points, they have a chance to reduce the eight-point deficit from fourth place, which is the club’s target for the automatic Champions League berth that comes with it.
Newcastle (19th, 10 points) resides on the opposite end of the table, fighting for Premier League survival with just 10 points on the season as the calendar nears the turn to 2022. Its lone win of the season over Burnley (Dec. 4) to pull off the bottom of the table feels like an eon ago, preceding three straight defeats by an 11-1 margin. The Magpies are still just three points from the safety zone which inspires hope, but COVID-19 postponements elsewhere have muddied the projections and see other clubs around them with games in hand.
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Playing at home has been a slightly more palatable task, with just three defeats in eight at St. James’ Park. With an upcoming run of matches against bottom-half sides like Everton, Southampton, Watford, and Leeds set to give Newcastle the chance for improvement, a performance against United would put them in the right mindset for that critical stretch.
How to watch Man United vs. Newcastle
- Date: Monday, Dec. 27
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV channel: USA Network
- Spanish-language TV: Universo
- Streaming: fuboTV (free 7-day trial), NBCSports.com (authenticated users)
In addition to being on USA Network, the match will also be accessible via the NBC Sports website for authenticated cable, satellite or telco subscribers.
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Man United vs. Newcastle projected lineups
The biggest bit of squad news for Newcastle revolves around midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who has struggled with a lack of fitness and was the victim of some load management by manager Eddie Howe. He was absent from the 4-0 loss to Man City last time out, and could miss out again. Shelvey had previously played all but six minutes since returning from a two-month calf injury in late October.
Federico Fernandez and Jamal Lewis are both ruled out due to thigh problems, while Paul Dummett has returned to training but may not yet be ready to see match minutes. Isaac Hayden is suspended for yellow card accumulation, meaning Sean Longstaff could be introduced to the side. Allan Saint-Maximin should come back to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the last match due to a knock. The 4-5-1 hasn’t quite worked out for Howe in the last two matches, and it could mean a return to the 4-4-2 that would see Joelinton drop to the bench.
Newcastle predicted starting lineup (4-4-2): Dubravka (GK); Ritchie, Clark, Lascelles, Murphy; Fraser, Longstaff, Willock, Almiron; Wilson, Saint-Maximin.
Manchester United has dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak over the past few weeks, but it now appears to be a thing of the past, with no known players currently out with a positive COVID-19 test or lingering symptoms. That means manager Ralf Ragnick has a mostly fit squad to choose from, with only Paul Pogba still waiting to fully recover from his groin injury in November.
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Anthony Martial, a potential January transfer departure, may return from a knee problem as could Aaron Wan-Bissaka. And Raphael Varane is also expected to be available from his thigh injury in late November. That trio would prove a massive boost for the Red Devils, and while they may not immediately play a part, their availibility gives Ragnick valuable selection options.
Left back Luke Shaw hasn’t played since late November as well, but he also could make his return from a head injury, having made the bench in the 1-0 win over Norwich City two weeks ago.
Man United predicted starting lineup (4-4-2): De Gea (GK); Shaw, Maguire, Varane, Dalot; McTominay, Fred, Fernandes, Sancho; Ronaldo, Rashford.
Newcastle vs. Man United betting odds & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Manchester United is obviously a heavy favorite, but not as heavy as one might expect going up against a squad that’s shipping goals across its Premier League schedule; the COVID-19 layoff seems to be weighing on bettors.
The Red Devils haven’t played in two weeks, and they’re also going to have a very difficult calendar to navigate in the coming months. For that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rangnick play a tad more conservatively in games the Red Devils don’t expect to need a full frontal assault to collect all three points.
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We’d have hoped for a bigger differential on the handicap, so the tastier option may be the total goals under. And with three games in seven days, Man United could opt to manage the game — and its energies — against an opponent it should easily dominate. There are tougher fixtures on the horizon.
Pick: Under 2.5 total goals (+135)
Prediction: Newcastle 0, Manchester United 1
- Moneyline: Newcastle +600 / Draw +390 / Man United -230
- Spread: Man United -1.5 (+130) / Newcastle +1.5 (-145)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over -165 / Under +135
- Both teams to score: Yes -130 / No +100