Manchester United, on paper is probably the best team in the Premier League. With the likes of the legend of Zlatan, the 100 Million pound signing Paul Pogba, the sneaky Spaniard Juan Mata, the other Spaniard De Gea and the teen sensation Rashford, everyone thought this team was surely going to win the league. United find themselves coming towards the end of a “disappointing” season in which they are fighting for a spot in the top 4.
Manchester United has rolled out two formations this year a classic 4-4-2, the ever so popular 4-2-3-1 and on occasion a 3 in the back formation either a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 all resulting in a very tactically sound team that does not give up a lot of goals. United is second in the PL in clean sheets with 15 total and currently have the second fewest goals allowed with only 25 largely due to solid back lines that have feature Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailey, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. This is a team that many teams have struggled to score against, and even though Dwight Gayle had 22 goals this past season for Newcastle, we saw how much Newcastle’s offense can struggle. This is the first hurdle newcastle would have to face.
The next area of the pitch, the midfield has been a sneaky good part of Manchester United. There has been a lot of criticism for the midfield’s star, Paul Pogba; but Pogba has had a good season doing what he has been asked to do. Pogba has never been much of a goal scorer, always a tactically sound midfielder who can spark a sequence that can lead to a goal. He has thrived in that role this year alongside Ander Herrera. The two are 2nd and 4th in the league with passes completed, Pogba with 2,139 and Herrera with 2,014. These numbers both are higher than some of the Premier League’s best midfielders including Kanté, Xhaka, Fernandinho, and James Milner. Add these two to a midfield with solid defenders like Carrick and Fellaini, with wing support from either Martial, Lindegaard, or Mata this midfield becomes scary. Now, with the resurgence of Mkhitaryan this midfield becomes even scarier. To say the least Newcastle’s midfield has had some holes in it. With nobody seeming to be able to play as a CAM, and a lot of action from Jack Colback due to injury, this midfield has largely been held together by Shelvey and Ritchie. That being said, I don’t see Newcastle being able to control the ball like they have been able to in the Championship against a Midfield that is this solid all around. We would probably find ourselves chasing the ball a lot against Mourinho’s midfield. This provides another area where we would struggle.
The attack from Man U this season has typically either featured Zlatan solely or, him being paired with Mata, Rashford or sometimes Martial when United come out in a 4-4-2 . Zlatan leads all goal scorers on the team with 17 which ties him with Dele Alli for 6th in the league. Rashford and Mata both have 5 respectively, which makes sense because Mata has found himself on the wing the majority of the year and Rashford has been used a lot to give Zlatan a rest. Overall this is a solid goal scoring unit, but this is one area of the pitch where Newcastle could put up a legitimate fight. Newcastle had the best defense in the Championship, which is nothing to sneeze at. They have solid defenders in Lascelles, Yedlin, and Clark; in front of a monster named Darlow in goal.
Like I said, Man U is easily an amazing team on paper, but that has not led to an incredibly successful season. There have been a multitude of issues that have made Mourinho change his tactics a lot; something that has somewhat hurt Man U at times. Putting Zlatan up alone has shown his age, as he is not fast and he often found himself dropping deeper and deeper into the midfield. This was fixed by inserting Mkhitaryan into the lineup, who loves to get forward. Inserting Mkhitaryan has put Pogba out of his normal role, seen Carrick dropped and a host of other problems. Underwhelming performance from Martial have also been an issue, the main idea being that this team is not perfect. That being said, I still see Newcastle getting beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford. But, depending on the time of the year Newcastle could steal a draw at home, and worst case scenario they lose 1-2 to United.