Will Newcastle United be playing on a level refereeing playing field when they take on Manchester United at St. James' Park on Monday or will it be dodgy as per usual?
That's the big question on everyone's lips connected with Newcastle United at the moment after the club were forced to seek clarification from The Premier League about the recent horrendous decisions against the club as outlined in my last blog article.
What won't be fair from the off is that Newcastle will be playing our fourth game in 16 days after playing Leicester City, Liverpool and Manchester City in quick succession while Man United will be playing their first game since December 11th after a Covid outbreak at the club conveniently provided The Red Devils with a fortnight's winter break and new Manager Ralf Rangnick with the time to organise and get to grips with the club.
Eddie Howe spoke in his press conference on Thursday about maintaining the "integrity" of The Premier League in the face of multiple postponements due to COVID-19:
It would of course be unfair if, say, Burnley, Newcastle's relegation rivals at the moment who have had four games postponed so far, are able to play 22 or 23 games after the January transfer window opens with new player signings compared to Newcastle who will only be able to field any new signings for a maximum 18 of the 38 games if the remaining fixtures in 2021 against The Red Devils & Everton and fulfilled as scheduled and its suspicious with Newcastle playing Burnley on the final day of the season.
Howe also spoke about the use of VAR has been bastardized from its inception in The Premier League in the 2019/20 season as a technology used to correct wrong decisions into the ineffective covering of fellow referee's decisions from Stockley Park it is now.
On the four decisions which angered everybody connected with Newcastle United from last week's three games, Howe spoke about the mood in the group:
"A feeling on unjust & feeling of disbelief in games on things that have gone against us...and the use of VAR which has definitely been contentious"
VAR and scandalously bad refereeing decisions aside and hopefully Newcastle fans will instantly see the results of high-level talks behind the scenes between not just Newcastle and The Premier League but also the new owners consortium and legal authorities as Eddie Howe has unwittingly found himself at the epicentre of a war being waged on many fronts across the world played out at the St James' Park club, Newcastle have a football match to play against sixth-placed Manchester United.
Howe confirmed that while Jamal Lewis, Paul Dummett and Fede Fernandez will miss the game with injury and Isaac Hayden is suspended for picking up five yellow cards, Emil Krafth and Javier Manquillo have returned to training following illness and the Swedish defender's pace will be especially welcome against Man United's rapid forward line and Spaniard Manquillo had a very good game at Old Trafford scoring an equaliser:
Ralf Rangnick issue a team update for Manchester United and revealed he now has a full complement of players to choose from with the exception of Paul Pogba and that Edison Cavani and Raphael Varane are back following longer absences.
Bizarrely, Rangnick known as "The Professor" in his native Germany following his rise to prominence for tactical innovations and the pressing revolution in the Bundesliga & football generally influencing the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, has already suggested reforms to English football including scrapping The League Cup, bizarrely for a manager whose honours list only stretches to one German Cup & UEFA's Intertoto trophy as well as a series of very minor Cup competitions & lower division football titles.
Rangnick is very respected in the coaching fraternity although it remains to be seen whether his skills as a club builder are readily transferrable to the elite management game and Eddie Howe will be doing his utmost to win a valuable three points for Newcastle and bounce back from recent reversals in front of a packed St. James' Park.
Prediction - Newcastle 3 Man United 2