Manchester United will be hoping to continue their 100% start to the season when they host Newcastle United on Saturday lunchtime in a Premier League fixture which rarely disappoints.
The Red Devils followed up their two domestic wins – they are one of only four Premier League teams to have maximum points – with a 3-1 victory over Club Brugge in Wednesday’s Champions League play-off.
Old Trafford has a new hero after £25m summer signing Memphis Depay scored two superb goals to cancel out United’s shock early deficit and help them establish a cushion to take to Belgium next week.
The Netherlands international winger will be brimming with confidence ahead of Newcastle’s visit to the Theatre of Dreams, but Wayne Rooney is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
United’s captain is without a goal this season, and is yet to register a shot on target in the Premier League. Louis van Gaal has already had to leap to his defence, but has little choice but to support his skipper as the club’s striking responsibilities fall almost entirely on his shoulders.
The Dutchman has missed out on a top-class attacking alternative, with Pedro sealing a £21m move to Chelsea. The World Cup winner had been linked with United throughout the summer, but it seems that there were hesitation from both parties, and he ended up swapping Barcelona for London.
This lack of attacking firepower, which may yet be addressed before the close of the transfer window, has so far been compensated by a new-look defence keeping successive clean sheets in the league.
Daley Blind has slotted in nicely alongside Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian has settled in quickly at right-back and Luke Shaw is showing his true colours bombing up and down the left side.
This back four would be maintained regardless of whether Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo were fit. As it is, both centre-backs remain sidelined and so Van Gaal is poised to name an unchanged lineup for the third time in a week – Real Madrid-linked goalkeeper David de Gea is still out of selection reckoning.
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Adnan Januzaj deserves to continue in the no.10 role after his match-winner against Villa. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ander Herrera and Ashley Young will all probably have to make do with the bench.
Newcastle are without a win so far but have no reason to panic. Their 2-2 draw against Southampton was a solid result, and their 2-0 defeat last weekend came at the hands of an excellent Swansea City outfit.
However, two areas of concern for new manager Steve McClaren, who spent two years as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at United, are Newcastle’s recent record at Old Trafford – they have won only once there since 1972 – and the fact that new signing Aleksandar Mitrovic looks like a red card waiting to happen.
The £10.5m buy has been booked three seconds and 90 seconds into his two substitute appearances to date. Don Hutchinson’s solution in The Chronicle – start the eager-to-impress Mitrovic this weekend.
A more likely full debutant for the Magpies is talented winger Florian Thauvin following his arrival from Marseille this week. He is a big improvement on Remy Cabella – who went the other way on loan.
The 22-year-old Frenchman could not get a better introduction to the Premier League than a game at Old Trafford, which should be buzzing with the prospect that United will go top of the table with a win.