Three key battles in Man Utd v Newcastle

Three key battles in Manchester United v Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday

By Dimitri Kondonis

Morgan Schneiderlin v Georginio Wijnaldum

If Newcastle are to escape Old Trafford with anything, their newly signed Dutch midfielder will have to play a pivotal role. The former PSV Eindhoven man will be crucial in driving the Magpies to any positive result, with 14 goals from midfield and 41 chances created last season in the Eredivisie. And United’s new acquisition from Southampton, Morgan Schneiderlin, will have to be at his best to cancel out the masterful player – who has already scored for the visitors this season in just two appearances. Winning a powerful 45% of his duels for the Saints last season, Schneiderlin will again be at the heart of United’s steel-like midfield, and the Red Devils will be hoping his robust nature can help to cancel out Wijnaldum’s creative threat.

Chris Smalling v Aleksander Mitrovic

United will have to be wary of Newcastle’s expensive forward Aleksander Mitrovic as they search for three points at home. The former Anderlecht striker, who scored twice in five Champions League appearances last season, is a real threat – scoring just under one goal every two matches in the league. And if the visitors start with the big Serbian, then Chris Smalling will have to be on top form to keep out the prolific target-man. Smalling has had his share of criticism since his move from Fulham in 2010, however Louis van Gaal clearly favours the England international. And with Smalling winning 66% of aerial duels, but only 44% of tackles, it should provide a fascinating contest at Old Trafford.

Memphis v Vernon Anita/Steven Taylor

The game seems set to be dominated by new signings and last season’s top scorer in the Eredivisie, Memphis Depay, will provide one of the most interesting battles. With 22 goals to his name and 60 chances created in the league, Depay clearly will provide a threat – even if he hasn’t settled properly in the Premier League just yet. And with compatriot Daryl Janmaat suspended for Newcastle, the Magpies will be relying upon a makeshift full-back – a troublesome proposition for the visitors. Louis van Gaal’s men would be mad not to utilise the rapid-fire forward in a bid to terrorise the Newcastle defence, and Steve McClaren will have to find a way to nullify Depay’s threat if they are to earn at least a point.

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