How many changes?
The last time United were hammered 6-1 in 2011 there were five changes for their next Premier League meeting at Everton, where the midfield malaise was highlighted by the presence of Wayne Rooney next to Tom Cleverley.
Only one alteration was enforced (Ashley Young was injured) and five is the minimum Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be making at Newcastle. Dean Henderson, Alex Telles and Donny van de Beek ostensibly represent the future of United and there is little sense in holding them back after two league defeats in three, with the goal difference minus seven.
Whatever side Solskjaer picks, it will be contentious. It is unthinkable that one of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof will not start yet both are a danger to their own side. Eric Bailly’s axis with Lindelof is synonymous with the Brighton debacle in August 2018 and his collaboration with Maguire against Tottenham was a disasterclass.
Solskjaer has mismanaged Paul Pogba, patently not match-fit against Crystal Palace or Brighton in the league, and the United manager’s indulgence of the Frenchman raises doubts over whether he has the bottle to drop the underperforming wantaway. Nemanja Matic has had a breather but his performances offer encouragement for Fred and Scott McTominay.
Change of formation?
United’s defence has been as leaky as Merlin’s accommodation in The Sword in the Stone and some supporters have suggested Solskjaer switches to a back three. Against Newcastle. Notoriously shot-shy Newcastle.
Jose Mourinho was sacked partly due to dissatisfaction with United’s style of play and Solskjaer hardly represents carpe diem football. Pragmatism has underpinned his standout results this calendar year but conservatism against a team that averaged a goal per game last season might signal the approach to the endgame.
Wild card pick?
Axel Tuanzebe is fit again and the stars are possibly aligning for the Rochdale-raised centre-back. There are asterisks against all of United’s other centre halves and Tuanzebe is a defender who has transcended three managers; promoted by Louis van Gaal, debuted under Jose Mourinho and recalled by Solskjaer.
Tuanzebe, 22, has not played since December 19 but the wait is nearly over and, for selfish reasons, he is returning at the perfect time.
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Who starts up front?
The tweet from the United account read: “@IghaloJude is raring to go, should he be called into action on Saturday night.” It is safe to assume Ighalo, abysmal in the Carabao Cup ties and excluded from the last two league squads, will not get the call.
Ighalo may make the bench as the suspended Anthony Martial is not back on domestic duty until Everton away in three weeks and Edinson Cavani is staving off cabin fever in quarantine.
Starting Mason Greenwood through the middle would be logical and Juan Mata is the obvious attacker to come in for a match where United are bound to dominate possession.