FOOTBALL NEWS

24/12/2012 23:56, Report by Nick Coppack
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Preview: Newcastle

Did you know? All three of Cleverley's goals for Manchester United have come against teams from the North East. Tom's scored in both of the Reds' clashes against Newcastle this season (including a brilliant curling shot from near the touchline in the 3-0 away win) and also found the net in United's recent victory over Sunderland at Old Trafford.

Opposition boss: Alan Pardew is the current League Managers Association Manager of the Year after leading the Magpies to a fifth-placed finish in 2011/12. That feat also earned him an eight-year contract extension from the Newcastle board. Still, he's been under fire recently as the Toon have struggled for consistency this season and languish in 14th place. He recently admitted he should have made more signings in the summer.

Star man: Senegalese striker Demba Ba has netted two goals in his three appearances against United and, despite Newcastle's faltering league position, has been banging them in for the Geordies this term. He's bagged 11 already and looks in a rich vein of form. Strong, quick and needing only the briefest sight of goal before he pulls the trigger, he's sure to prove a handful for United's centre backs. 

Sub-plots: Defender Danny Simpson and winger Gabriel Obertan both enjoyed spells at Old Trafford before moving north and will no doubt relish a return to the Theatre of Dreams. The Magpies will also be desperate to end their Old Trafford hoodoo: they've not won here since February 1972.

Whistle-blower: Mike Dean will be in charge of the Reds for the third time this season. He's previously refereed United's wins at Southampton and at home to Arsenal. He'll hope for a less eventful fixture than Mike Jones oversaw last term when his controversial penalty award handed Newcastle a point.

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