It was the best of times, it was (nearly) the worst of times, it was the age to buck conventional wisdom, it was the age of incredulity when it happend, it was the season of lofty joy, it was the season of darkness...
-Charles Dickens (paraphrased)
Who knew that Charles DIckens was a faithful member of the Toon Army? 152 years on, it is as apt a description for our season to this point as I can come up with. Hopefully for us, the dichotomy of the season will not express itself in the results with Manchester United. Surely there are those out there who will swear that Football Karma owes Manchester United for our stealing of a point from Old Trafford just over a month ago. Surely there are also those who will say that Manchester United is not owed anything in terms of Football Karma with regard to results on the pitch. Predictably, I would be one of those despite the Devils' loss over the weekend to Blackburn. Hey, we've all managed a loss like that every now and again, right?
Despite an admittedly poor referee's decision that awarded us the penalty that ultimately became the tying goal and earned us a point, a reasonable review of the match showed that the result was about right on the day. Of course, that day was much much closer to the days when we were in tremendous form and giving people hope that we could compete with just about anyone in the league. This match also gave us such useful talking points as #MaccaHatesTheToon... which is always fun. It was well and truly one of the most one-sided analyst jobs filled with more scorn towards Newcastle than I've detected on some scum websites. That, however, was then... and this is now. What do we have to look forward to tomorrow?
The Interesting Factoids Part of the Preview
- Manchester United have not lost their opening game of a calendar year since 1996. Trend #1 registered.
- Manchester United have not lost to Newcastle United in their last 18 meetings, taking full points in 13 of those matches. Trend #2 registered. Newcastle have seen several of these kinds of trends meet them in recent matches, and have not been able to break any of them while seeing some similar trends broken against them. Surely we're owed to snap one of these, right?
- The Curse of SDA update: Newcastle have one once since the "rebranding" of St. James' Park. Sadly, the BBC yesterday reiterated that they'll be calling it Sports Direct <bbbbbaaaaaaarrrrrrrfffffffff> so there's that coolness as well.
- Manchester United are undefeated in their last 10 matches away from Old Trafford. Trend #3 registered.
- When Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye have been paired in the center of the Newcastle United midfield, Newcastle have been defeated only once (Liverpool)
Gabriel Obertan is in and out of the lineup tomorrow (depending on what report you read) after aggravating the toe injury that kept him out of a couple of matches earlier in the season. The opposite fixture gave us perhaps Gaby's finest performance in the black-and-white as he repeatedly made Patrice Evra look silly on the left of Man U's defense. While there is no guarantee of a similar performance this time around, I'm sure that Alan Pardew would be looking to give it a shot if Gaby can go.
Since the loss of Steven Taylor to the Achilles' injury a month ago, Newcastle has looked particularly susceptible to runs and through balls to speedy strikers-- a tactic that Manchester United pounded and pounded at us with only just an inch off here and there keeping them from reaping the rewards. We'll be needing to cope with that tactic a little better than we have in order to stop tempting fate or we may get burned.
Out: Danny Guthrie (groin), Sylvain Marveaux (groin), Peter Lovenkrands (calf), Steven Taylor (Achilles')
So we sit and hope that at the end of the day we might be able to say:
What a night it has been! Almost a night, Toon brethren, to bring the dead out of their graves!
-Charles Dickens (paraphrased)