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There is certainly not much festive joy to be had around St James’ Park at the moment, with Newcastle conceding 11 goals in their three most recent defeats as their survival task becomes harder by the week.
It took all of five minutes for Ruben Dias to open the scoring for Manchester City last time out, and the champions would complete the rout through Joao Cancelo, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez as the Magpies fell short once again.
After starting the month in promising fashion with that much-needed win over Burnley, the harsh reality check for Newcastle sees them remain 19th in the table ahead of the Boxing Day fixtures – level on points with Norwich City having played a game more.
Even 17th-placed Watford – who are three points ahead of the Magpies – have two games in hand as Omicron rages across the country, but the appointment of Howe has not exactly led to the upturn in fortunes that the new owners would have aspired for.
A tally of 41 goals conceded is unsurprisingly the worst defensive record in the 2021-22 top-flight season, and having been breached 79 times in the calendar year, Newcastle could set a new unwanted record for most Premier League goals conceded in that period.
On the face of it, three defeats from their last eight Premier League games at St James’ Park is hardly abysmal, but a refreshed Man United outfit will not be prepared to play nice on Monday.
Newcastle lynchpin Isaac Hayden picked up his fifth booking of the league season in the Man City defeat and will sit this one out, so Sean Longstaff could come into the engine room with Jonjo Shelvey still a fitness doubt.
Federico Fernandez and Jamal Lewis have been ruled out of the festive period due to thigh issues, while Paul Dummett has returned to training but is still some way off a return.
Howe may be boosted by Javier Manquillo and Emil Krafth returning from non-COVID-related illnesses, but a fully-fit Jacob Murphy may hold his place at right-back.
As for Man United, Rangnick has hinted that he will have a fully-fit squad to pick from this weekend, barring the recovering Paul Pogba.
Raphael Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial could therefore all come into contention for the trip to St James’ Park, and the same can be said for Victor Lindelof despite his scare with breathing difficulties against Norwich.
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Varane could slot straight back in for Harry Maguire if he is deemed fit enough, but Diogo Dalot will have no intention of dropping out for Wan-Bissaka just yet.
Newcastle United possible starting lineup:
Dubravka; Murphy, Lascelles, Schar, Ritchie; Almiron, Longstaff, Willock, Joelinton; Wilson, Saint-Maximin
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Telles; Fred, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes; Ronaldo, Rashford