Remember the day – Saturday November 18th the day that Zlatan Ibrahimovic could once again set foot on the Old Trafford hallowed turf. The news that broke yesterday that both he and Paul Pogba make the Manchester United squad this evening will have undoubtedly Red Devils fans excited at the prospect of the mercurial Swede’s return.
How much Ibrahimovic and Pogba feature against Newcastle later today is unsure but it will be a very welcome boost to a side that went into the international break of the back of defeat to Chelsea, one that meant it was an unhappy return to West London for Jose Mourinho.
Not only that but it is a defeat that sees United slip to eight points behind their cross town rivals Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title. For all the cut and thrust of the first two months of the season it is fair to say that they have not been at the same level since.
You could perhaps pin point the moment as to when this occurred, that being the 0-0 draw away at Liverpool. Whether you continue to talk about Jose parking the bus is completely up to you but since then they have lost a step in their overall performances.
The fact that they are still second should not be overlooked but the fact that their win over Tottenham has now been cancelled out due to the fact the two teams are once again on the same points tells it’s own story, a case of one step forward and then one step back.
But spare a thought for Romelu Lukaku he was in blistering form at the start of the season but he has now gone seven games without a goal (in all competitions) as accusations that he is a flat track bully once again begin to rear their ugly head.
If that is the case then he may well fancy his chances of breaking this barren spell when Rafa Benitez brings a Newcastle side to town which has lost its last two matches. The former Liverpool boss has had to witness successive defeats to Burnley and Bournemouth both coming in the form of 1-0 defeats.
It looked as if they were going to have to do with a frustrating draw at home to Bournemouth before the international break but the Cherries’ Steve Cook had different ideas. His late goal meant that Eddie Howe’s men would complete a smash and grab on Tyneside.
Those successive defeats have meant that Newcastle have slipped out of the top half of the table as they now find themselves currently lying 11th and with there being little difference between them and the teams lying 12th to 17th they can ill afford another defeat.
Should that be the case then they may well end the weekend in a lower position than which they started, they may well have to roll their sleeves up and dig in if they are to get any positive outcome from this encounter, if they are they are going to need goals the question though is where will they come from.
The Magpies have scored 10 goals this season with no fewer than eight different players getting on the scoresheet, that says there is not a reliance on one particular player but when your top scorer has just two goals this season that also tells a story of its own.
With that mind coupled with the lift that Manchester United will receive with the return of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic I cannot see anything else than a home win as the Red Devils do there best to stay in touch with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
This is what social media thinks will happen – you can still vote on the outcome
— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) November 17, 2017