Manchester United will attempt to put their Champions League frustrations behind them on the domestic front with the chance to revive their Premier League hopes against Newcastle.
A 2-2 midweek draw at home to Benfica meant United must now avoid defeat in their final group match at FC Basel next month to be sure of qualifying for the knockout rounds of Europe’s leading club competition.
On the domestic front, United trail Premier League leaders Manchester City, who travel to Liverpool on Sunday, by five points going into the weekend.
Newcastle lost their first Premier League match of the season with a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City last weekend, while United’s 6-1 hammering by Roberto Mancini’s side is their only loss of the campaign.
United know that another stumble at Old Trafford will give City the chance to extend their advantage at the top of the table to eight points.
But Ferguson will not be taking the Magpies lightly.
The veteran boss has been impressed with the work of Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, who has taken the north-east side to the upper reaches of the Premier League despite limited spending in the transfer market.
Ferguson insisted both West Ham and Southampton were premature in sacking Pardew, saying: “I’ve always respected Alan Pardew, I’ve always rated him.
“I think he was unfairly treated at West Ham and at Southampton, it was ridiculous actually.
“He took West Ham to the FA Cup final and was one minute away from winning the Cup. He was so unlucky.
“Alan’s done a great job at Newcastle.
“He’s galvanised them and got them fighting for each other. I watched their recent 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham and it was a great game, end to end, with both teams trying to win.
“There was a really good attitude among both sets of players. They were fighting for every ball.
“When you’ve got a Newcastle team doing that, with their great support behind them, you know you’re going to get a difficult game.”
Ferguson could be without Wayne Rooney against Newcastle.
The England striker missed the draw with Benfica due to a hip problem sustained in the 1-0 win over Swansea last weekend.
Newcastle may have lost their unbeaten record against Manchester City but midfielder Yohan Cabaye thinks that if the Magpies can repeat their performance at Eastlands they could yet worry United.
The French midfielder, 25, has made a significant impact since arriving from Lille in pre-season.
He missed out on the chance to play in the Champions League with his former club but insisted the opportunity to turn out at stadiums like Old Trafford more than makes up for that.
“This is real football, why I signed for Newcastle,” Cabaye said. “It will be like a Champions League match and that is fantastic because I want to play in matches like this every week.
“Manchester United are a very good side and we know that it won’t be easy.
“We have to work hard and play like we did in the second half against Manchester City and if we do that for the full match then hopefully we’ll get one or three points.”
Newcastle are boosted by the return of midfielder Cheikh Tiote, who has been out with a knee injury, while Gabriel Obertan has recovered from a toe problem to face his former club.
Striker Leon Best is also available after missing the City defeat with a minor groin strain.