COMMENT by Russell Edge
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez must be prepared to make major tactical changes to his starting XI if he wants to spring a shock against Manchester United on Saturday.
The Magpies have endured two successive 1-0 defeats, away at Burnley and then at home to Bournemouth, leaving the club sitting in 11th place prior to the international break.
They return to league action after the two week break with a trip to Old Trafford to take on a side sitting second in the table, although Jose Mourinho did watch his men slip to a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in their last outing.
With doubts over several of Newcastle’s stars due to injury, it could prove a difficult afternoon for Benitez and his side.
However, provided those doubts are fit for the match, Benitez should look to play a 5-4-1 formation, with forgotten man Chancel Mbemba taking the place of Joselu to form a three-man partnership at the heart of defence.
Newcastle must look to stifle the potent forward line of Manchester United, who are likely going to take the game to what they will probably view as a vulnerable Magpies side.
Five at the back, with club captain Jamaal Lascelles, one of the aforementioned doubts, marshalling his team mates, will frustrate the Red Devils, with the incredible work ethic of Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu providing support on the flanks.
Mbemba should be chosen ahead of Ciaran Clark due to his mobility and pace, as he looks to counter the imposing presence of Romelu Lukaku up front.
Benitez should leave Dwight Gayle, with his pace and natural finishing ability, up top to figurehead the attack in what is likely to be a display of pure counter-attacking football, with Jonjo Shelvey using his passing range to dictate play from the midfield.
The qualities of each player chosen should work against United, and if chosen, would be the side to spring a shock against a heavily favoured Red Devils team.
In other Newcastle United news, this axed figure has made a surprise revelation over his future at the club.