ENGLAND’S top clubs no longer dare risk resting their top players at St James’ Park – according to Alan Pardew.
Newcastle United entertain Manchester United this evening with Pardew expecting a far more familiar Red Devils side than the patched-up one beaten 3-2 by Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Eve.
Wayne Rooney and Darron Gibson were dropped following an unauthorised night out. Chris Smalling and Rio Ferdinand are expected to return tonight after illness, while Ryan Giggs could be recalled from his weekend rest.
The Red Devils’ team-sheet will therefore be in keeping with the attitude of other leading sides at St James’ this season.
“I am well informed there will be a few back for this game and I’m not surprised because I think Alex knows it is a tough game coming to Newcastle,” said Pardew, who watched from the Old Trafford stands on Saturday. “I know 100% Rooney will play, and I think Ferdinand and Smalling will play, so suddenly their side looks a lot more balanced, significantly.
“I think Giggsy might be involved because he sat in the stands on Saturday.
“He (Ferguson) knows this will be a tough game. When he came last season (for a 0-0 draw), he said afterwards there’s something about coming here, it’s a tough place to come. He knows that from history so he will put out his best possible side out.
“We’re aware with the stadium we’ve got and the noise and excitement we can generate if we give our level of performance, it can be a real help to us. If a team comes here, we expect them to play their strongest team. I think they need to.
“I don’t think there’s been one team come here with any game plan to try to win here without their strongest team since I’ve been here.”
Chelsea and Manchester City are the only top six sides to win at St James’ under Pardew – the latter early in his rein, the former in controversial circumstances. That said, Newcastle are yet to beat any of the sides above them in the table this season.
“Spurs was a fantastic game, probably our best of the season at St James’,” Pardew reflected. “Arsenal was a great game, Chelsea, we were pushing, pushing at 1-0 down and unfortunately with a man down conceded two late goals, but it was a close game.
“Man United, Man City, we gave a good account of ourselves and Liverpool, we did the same although the result went against us.
“We’re close, we can see it, we can feel it, but actually beating one of those sides maybe would be the final piece to take us forward.”
To do so, Pardew wants his team to be positive.
“Looking at the recent games, teams that have sat back (against the Red Devils) have got thumped,” he recalled. “They’ve got such talent in their ranks, they’re going to cause you problems but we have a striker (Demba Ba) who is in form, a central midfield pairing (of Cheick Tioté and Yohan Cabaye) that I think’s as good as theirs, and the back line and goalie have been resolute all year, so we’re in a good position to try to attack the game.
“At Liverpool we didn’t have enough threat despite retaining the ball for long spells, and we’ve spoken about getting that back.
“It’s important to retain the ball against United, make them work, but we still need a threat at the end of that, and I thought at Liverpool we just lacked that a little bit.”
Gabriel Obertan is expected to play despite an infected toe.
Steve Harper, meanwhile, is considering a second loan this season, at Hull City.
A deal is unlikely this week because Newcastle do not want the goalkeeper cup-tied. Talk of Alan Smith joining Ipswich Town has been dismissed.
Barnsley midfielder Jacob Butterfield, who has been watched by Newcastle recently, has been ruled out for the season after damaging his left anterior cruciate ligament.