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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Stubborn Red Devils can master the tactical battle

It could be seventh time lucky for Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho could be the happier of the two managers
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Sky Sports Premier League, 2.15pm Sunday

Jose Mourinho has never won a Premier League match in six previous visits to St James' Park but he could be in seventh heaven after Manchester United's trip to Newcastle.

Mourinho has escaped Tyneside with two League Cup triumphs so he does know the winning feeling at the place he called "Sir Bobby's home" but things may not be quite so friendly with the current Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez.

The two have clashed regularly, most notably in the epic duels between Liverpool and Chelsea, which were often tactical, low-scoring affairs full of drama and controversy.

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It could be another grind, but whereas Benitez used to have gifted footballers to take on Mourinho he is now scraping the barrel as the Magpies look to escape relegation on the cheap.

“We are not a defensive team, we are a team that has to defend," explained Benitez when asked whether he would park the bus just as he did in a 1-0 loss to Manchester City in December.

Benitez does not have to be quite so wary of United's attacking talents but his main job will be to keep out the visitors before hoping January arrivals Islam Slimani and Kenedy can do some damage on the counter attack.

However, City found a way through and so did Tottenham in a 2-0 win at Newcastle. Expect the same again with United to claim maximum points in a game featuring no more than three goals.

The Manchester men have kept seven clean sheets in their last eight outings - six of those fixtures ended in victory - and their one blip was a deserved 2-0 defeat against Tottenham at Wembley.

Mourinho's side struggled to nullify the threats of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen but Newcastle don't have that kind of special talent to pick holes through United's midfield.

It was a stroll last week as the Red Devils returned to winning ways with a 2-0 success over Huddersfield thanks to second-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez in a typical Mourinho game. 

It's rare for a Mourinho side to go for the jugular when in front, while should they be in a winning position it is difficult to see where Newcastle find a path back into the game.

Slimani, who has scored five times this season for Leicester with four of those goals coming in the League Cup, should be an upgrade on Dwight Gayle and Joselu for Newcastle's starting centre forward.

However, the Algerian hitman is not fully fit and when he signed on deadline day it was initially thought he would be sidelined for a couple of weeks.

The recovery has gone well enough for Slimani to be considered but he will get easier chances to get a first Newcastle goal.  

Man Utd to win & under 3.5 goals
1pt 13-10 BoyleSports, Ladbrokes

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Team news
Islam Slimani needs to be assessed. Ciaran Clark and Mo Diame should recover from knocks but Jesus Gamez remains out.

Man Utd
Jose Mourinho is without the injured quartet of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Marouane Fellaini.

Key stat
Man Utd have won 12 Premier League games at Newcastle, their most fruitful away venue.

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Mourinho's side struggled to nullify the threats of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen but Newcastle don't have that kind of special talent
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