Newcastle (+700) at Manchester United (-275), Draw (+375)
Despite not showing their best form early in the season, Manchester United have won their first two English Premier League matches and sit tied atop the table with Man. City, Liverpool, and Leicester. United will try to stay perfect when they host Newcastle this Saturday at Old Trafford (7:00 AM Eastern).
United have already posted 1-0 wins over Tottenham and Aston Villa in the EPL, and they followed that up with a 3-1 victory over Club Brugge in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League playoff.
If the early season is any indication, United will rely on a robust defense but may struggle to find the net at times. Man. U and Liverpool are the only two teams in the EPL that have yet to allow a goal, but they also have just two tallies through two games, one of which was an own goal by Tottenham.
One of the biggest criticisms of United’s approach relates to the way manager Louis Van Gaal is using Wayne Rooney. The longtime United striker has been moved to midfield, while Juan Mata is being employed as a second striker. That means both find themselves in positions they are not used to playing.
But Van Gaal isn’t heeding the complaints, instead focusing on the positive results to date. “I want a second striker more than a midfielder in the No.10 position. That is why Adnan [Januzaj] got his chance, and he scored [against Aston Villa]. What more does a trainer or manager want?”, Van Gaal said to the Mirror.
Newcastle, who finished 15th in the table last year, just four points above the relegation zone, shouldn’t be a huge obstacle for Man. United. The Magpies have recorded just one point in two games this season thanks to a draw against Southampton (2-2) and a loss to Swansea (2-0).
A mid-table finish would be more than enough for a team that hasn’t won an English championship since 1926-27.
In the trends, Manchester United have won three straight head-to-head matchups and six of the last seven (dating back to 2012). Though United haven’t been overly impressive on offense so far, the Newcastle defense has looked porous and shown no tactical discipline. Expect the Red Devils to exploit that and come away with the win on home soil.
Pick: Manchester United (-275).
(Photo credit: Austin Osuide [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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