Manchester United need all three points when they host an in-form Newcastle side at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Boxing Day (12:30pm ET Thursday).
Man Utd have endured an inconsistent first half of the season, during which they have been unable to string a run of results together that would allow them truly to enter the contest for a top-four finish. Instead, they find themselves in eighth, seven points off fourth.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have only once recorded back-to-back victories. While they have proved to be difficult opponents for upper table sides, they have really struggled against supposedly lesser teams. The difference is stark. Man Utd have taken 15 points from their seven matches against fellow top-eight sides and just 10 from their 11 against the bottom 12.
That pattern continued in their 0-2 loss away to bottom-of-the-table Watford on Sunday. Jesse Lingard failed to convert the best chance either side created during a cagey opening period, before two quick-fire goals after the interval provided Watford with an advantage they never really looked like relinquishing. “It was very subdued, slow, no tempo and in the end we gave them two goals,” Solskjaer said afterwards.
It was a disappointing performance and result ahead of a hectic period through Christmas and into the new year in which Man Utd will not only contest league points, but also begin their FA Cup campaign and face local rivals Manchester City in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final. Solskjaer and his side cannot afford to be so lax if they want to give themselves things to play for during the second half of the season.
If United seem not to be on course to achieve their seasonal objectives in the league, exactly the opposite can be said of their Boxing Day visitors. Newcastle were one of the teams thought likely to be involved in a relegation scrap, but five wins in their last eight matches have propelled them into the top 10. They are much closer to the European places than the bottom three and are actually level on points with their hosts on Thursday.
Steve Bruce’s side continued their good run of form with a 1-0 win at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Miguel Almiron’s first goal in English football provided the Magpies with an 83rd minute winner at the end of the encounter in which their visitors had created the better chances. It was the sixth of their seven wins this season achieved by a one-goal margin.
Newcastle’s underlying statistics still look pretty ugly, but they have already got enough points on the board to somewhat alleviate that concern. Almost at the halfway point of the campaign, their haul of 25 points gives them a 10-point advantage over the bottom three and probably represents around two-thirds of the points total that they will require to survive.
One of Newcastle’s one-goal victories this season came at home to Manchester United in October. In a match of very few chances, Matthew Longstaff fired home the winning goal from outside the area with just under twenty minutes left to play. Given that they also won by the same scoreline away at Tottenham Hotspur, it isn’t outside the realms of possibility that they could produce another such result with a stout defensive performance on Boxing Day.
That may be especially the case given the aforementioned problems United have had against primarily defensive-minded teams so far this season. While United have a number of rapid and incisive threats in transition that make them a dangerous side on the counter-attack, they lack the necessary collective and individual ingenuity to regularly break down set opponents.
Our Preview’s Manchester United vs Newcastle Predictions & Betting Tips & Picks Verdict
All of this suggests that Newcastle have a solid chance of getting some kind of positive result from this Boxing Day fixture. The available odds with our recommended offshore oddsmakers look attractive in terms of backing them to come away from Old Trafford with a draw or more. So these are the Man Utd vs Newcastle predictions for this preview:
- Bet on Newcastle +0.5 goal on the spread @ best odds of +245 with Bovada.