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Jon Riley 4th Jan 2012 - 14:43

Belated Birthday Celebration For Sir Alex?

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Wednesday 20:00 - live on Sky Sports 1

Newcastle welcome Manchester United to St James' Park with both teams aiming to start 2012 in a more positive fashion than they ended 2011.

The Geordies have won just once in their last eight games and that solitary triumph came against an awful Bolton team in the midst of a relegation dog-fight. In their last outing they could have risen back up to sixth position in the Premier League, but could not build on Yohann Cabaye/Martin Skrtel's opener against Liverpool, eventually slumping to a 3-1 defeat at Anfield.

On the injury front Alan Pardew is confident that Gabriel Obertan will be available for selection against his former team but Steven Taylor, Danny Guthrie and Sylvain Marveaux remain absent for the Toon.

Sir Alex Ferguson's birthday was well and truly spoiled by Blackburn Rovers in United's final game of last year. Despite coming from 2 goals down, Dimitar Berbatov's brace was not enough to stop Rovers scoring a last minute winner at Old Trafford. Prior to that shock, United had been in imperious form. Back-to-back 5-0 victories had put the seal on a fine Christmas period where the Red Devils had won five consecutive Premier League matches.

Ferguson has a number of injury problems to contend with as he takes his team to the north-east. Nemanja Vidic, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Michael Owen and Jonny Evans are all sidelined while Chris Smalling has only a slight chance of being fit.

The match betting for this New Year clash sees the visitors installed as 8/11 favourites compared to the 4/1 offered for the hosts. The draw can be backed at 5/2.

The favouritism for the reigning champions is rightly justified when you consider their recent form against Newcastle. Man Utd have won 13 and lost none of the last 18 matches against Newcastle in the Premier League. No one has taken more advantage of this one-sided rivalry than Wayne Rooney.

Rooney has scored six goals in his last six appearances against Newcastle on Tyneside and is priced at 7/2 to open the scoring on Wednesday evening. William Hill offer 6/4 that his first action during the game is to score a goal while he is 4/1 to be booked and 40/1 to see a straight red first. Rooney is 15/8 to outscore Demba Ba during the game and 5/2 to outscore Javier Hernandez.

"All eyes will be on Rooney as he returns to the pitch following his suspension and we think he could well find the back of the net," said Hill's spokesman Joe Crilly.

The last time these two sides played, Manchester United conceded a highly controversial penalty and they are 11/2 to concede another. That game at Old Trafford in November ended 1-1 (13/2 correct score) and I'm sure the Newcastle supporters would take that scoreline before kick-off.

The host's best chance of causing an upset is through their fourteen goal hit-man Demba Ba. The Senegalese striker is second in the Golden Boot race behind Robin van Persie and almost notched another goal against Liverpool on Friday but his sublime effort was hacked off the goal line. Ba can be backed at 7/1 to break the deadlock in this match or 2/1 to notch at anytime.

The William Hill Match Winner offer for this game is for Manchester United to win the match to nil at an enhanced price of 5/2. Sir Alex will surely not accept another defensive display similar to that against Blackburn and a clean sheet will be the perfect response from his players.

My recommendations:
To come from behind and win/draw - Man Utd @ 15/4
Correct score - Man Utd 3-1 @14/1




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