Fabricio Coloccini is back in Argentina as he recovers from his groin injury.
The United skipper has been granted permission by the club to return to his homeland, prompting fears that he may face a long spell on the sidelines.
The Magpies are yet to get a definitive timescale on his injury, which is likely to open the door to Steven Taylor for an extended run in the Newcastle starting XI.
United boss Alan Pardew had already confirmed that Coloccini will not play in Sunday’s big Wear-Tyne derby but the news that he is in South America suggests it may be an extended period of recovery for the Newcastle skipper.
The club are yet to put a definitive timescale on the centre-back’s comeback, which is a concern given that Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will miss the next three games through suspension.
Coloccini’s (right) groin problem was suffered while on international duty with Argentina last week but knowing how crucial he is to their hopes of maintaining their recent fine run, they are unwilling to take any chances with such an important player.
Taylor’s return will be a timely one for Newcastle, who have been missing the homegrown defender since he was sent off in the opening day defeat to Manchester City.
His comeback was put back due to injury but Pardew has confirmed that he will be available for the Sunderland game, which will see him partner Mike Williamson – who has enjoyed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes since his return to the starting XI at Cardiff earlier this month.
The defensive issues are the only thing that has blighted an otherwise productive few days for Newcastle, who have also been boosted by the return to form of Cheick Tiote.
The Ivorian midfielder looks back to his very best and he was rewarded for his recent fine form with promotion to captain’s duties for Saturday’s home game against Liverpool. Although Pardew confirmed after the game that he would consider giving Yohan Cabaye the armband again in the future it appears as if it will be adorning Tiote’s arm for the duration of Coloccini’s absence.
The midfielder said he was delighted to have been given the honour, which he feels was partly down to his recent improvement in discipline.
“I just said ‘okay, I will take it’. I wasn’t expecting it so it came as a surprise,” he told the club’s official website.
“Maybe he chose me to be captain because I have good experience, I don’t know. But I am happy and hope I can continue to do it.
“I always do my best on the pitch and always try to help my team-mates. It doesn’t matter whether I am captain or not but this made me very proud.
“When you are captain you have to push your teammates to believe in themselves and show them a good example.
“I think I am in the right position now. I have stopped taking red cards and yellow cards and that is good for me and the team.”
Pardew has been careful to play down suggestons that Tiote’s promotion is a reflection on Cabaye’s behaviour over the summer, when he wanted to leave the club to sign for Arsenal.
It was more a question of timing, the United boss said.
“I think we are over that but, again, with the captaincy, I thought ‘Hmmm, not quite right just yet,” Pardew said.
“I am sure he will be captain of this club at some point. He was magnificent on Saturday, a real class act and he keeps reminding us he is a special player.”
Meanwhile, The Journal understands that talk of United considering moves for PSV Eindhoven Ola Toivonen and Manchester City defender Micah Richards is not accurate.
The Sweden striker was linked last week but Newcastle are not looking at the 27-year-old PSV forward, while Richards was offered to Newcastle over the summer but they declined the chance to sign the England right-back.
Richards’ contract demands would break Newcastle’s wage structure and United’s priority targets are on the left of midfield and up front.
Newcastle’s January plans will depend on their form through until the New Year but the Manchester City man will not be on any list of targets they draw up.