Ahead of the Newcastle game, there are two major questions to be answered: Will Ronaldo start, and how do you solve the midfield problem – both McTominay and Fred look unlikely to be available for starting the game at this point.
Here’s how I’d go:
- Defence: De Gea, Shaw, Maguire, Varane, Bissaka. Our best possible defence right now.
- Midfield – Playing Donny, Bruno, and Pogba together in a midfield three would be absurd, but via Matic, we can still start all three for this game (don’t have much of a choice either way). Hopefully, Matic plays better for this one, because last time around he just couldn’t keep up with anything – and this time he will have even less cover if DVDB starts for Fred. Worrying indeed, but a major opportunity for Donny to shine.
- Attack – With an unleashed Pogba roaming freely from the left, and Bruno creating through the middle, CR7 and Greenwood could be a truly lethal combo upfront. Remains to be seen if Ole decides to ease him in, but this is Cristiano Ronaldo we’re talking about so I wouldn’t see the need for that here.
A wildcard alternative would be to play a 3-5-2, which would be logical purely considering the available players we have right now. But I just feel like Newcastle might be the wrong opponents for that set-up. Surely an option to consider either way.
Other than Fred who is banned from playing due to international regulations, and McTominay who just came back from surgery, our only other major absentee remains Rashford.
Stats & facts
-We haven’t lost to Newcastle at home in the league since Moyes in 2013. Our last 36 home game record vs The Magpies is W26 D9 L1.
-If Ronaldo plays this game, he will set yet another record – for the longest gap between appearances in PL history (May 2009 vs Arsenal – September 2021 vs Newcastle, 12 years 118 days).
-Ronaldo’s first-ever hat-trick came against Newcastle in 2008. Since then he’s gone on to score another 47 hat-tricks in his club career!
-If Mason Greenwood scores in this fixture, he will have scored in each of the 4 PL games so far this season. That would mean him joining an exclusive club of the only three other PL teenagers to do so – Anelka, Fowler & Jeffers.
Let’s hope the presentation & return of Cristiano Ronaldo is matched by an equally impressive game against Newcastle.