Manchester United saw their lead at the top of the Premier League cut to four points after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Swansea City on Sunday afternoon, allowing Manchester City to close the gap following their victory against Reading on Saturday.
Despite taking the lead early on through Patrice Evra, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were pegged back shortly after thanks to a goal from the league’s top goalscorer Michu, ending a run of five successive victories for the title chasers.
While no game will ever be marked as easy in the Premier League, United now face a run of four matches in which they’ll be expecting to pick up maximum points, starting with two home games as they look to keep City at bay in second.
Next up for the leaders is the visit of Newcastle, who haven’t quite hit the heady heights of last season and find themselves just five points above the relegation places after their 1-0 home win over second-from-bottom QPR at the weekend.
That result ended a run of three successive defeats for Alan Pardew’s men, who travel to Old Trafford with the unenviable task of becoming the first Magpies side to record all three points in the north-west since a 2-0 win back in 1972.
That task has been made even more difficult after Hatem Ben Arfa picked up a hamstring injury in the recent defeat to Fulham, ruling the influential Frenchman out until the new year.
United head into this game as overwhelming favourites in the bwin 3way football betting market having been priced at 11/50 to return to winning ways, with the draw at 5/1, while a first win on the road this term for Newcastle can be backed at 21/2.
Newcastle have managed to pick up just four points from a possible 24 on their travels, which doesn’t make for good reading considering how strong United have been at home this season, winning seven and losing one of their eight matches on their own patch.
In Robin van Persie, United possess the league’s second top scorer with 12 goals and the Dutchman has a decent record against the Magpies, scoring six times in 11 matches, while strike partner Wayne Rooney has ten in 20 meetings.
Unsurprisingly, Van Persie is the favourite to score the opening goal at 11/4, while Rooney, who has five goals from his previous five outings and seven in total this campaign, can be backed at a tempting 3/1 to open proceedings.
Punters registering with bwin can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Rooney to break the deadlock would return a cool £80 if successful.
The league’s most potent attacking side have seen off Pardew’s men twice already this season, the first a 2-1 win in the Capital One Cup at Old Trafford, before running out 3-0 victors when the sides met at St James’ Park back at the beginning of October.
Newcastle will see a small glimmer of hope in the fact that despite their prowess in front of goal, United have managed to record just three clean sheets from their 18 league games, with their defence being breached on 22 occasions so far this season.
Despite the entire Newcastle squad managing just eight goals away from home to date, Demba Ba has scored 11 league goals already this season, so the United defence will need to be on their guard against the Senegalese front man.
With that in mind, a 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 home win in the multiple correct score market could prove fruitful at 14/5, especially considering the potentials return of £76 from a £20 stake.
Newcastle have not shown anything this season to suggest that they could unsettle United and a comfortable home win surely beckons.