IT used to be capital punishment down in London – now Greater Manchester is where Newcastle fear to tread.
United famously went 29 games in London without winning before a 3-1 victory at Highbury in 2001 ended the jinx, paving the way for a relatively impressive record in the Big Smoke ever since.
Manchester, though, is an entirely different matter. Somehow the wheels seem to come off when black and white crosses into a Greater Manchester postcode, last weekend’s 3-1 reverse at the Etihad Stadium actually one of the brighter moments they have experienced in that area over the last five years.
The Journal’s research shows Newcastle have won just three times in 25 games in the Greater Manchester postcode since 2005, a record which includes some truly wince-inducing trips to Old Trafford.
By contrast, London has proved a pleasant place to play – with an impressive eight victories in 25 trips down south.
The Manchester mitigation is that Old Trafford is a difficult place to go.
Only a handful of sides have beaten English football’s dominant force on their own patch in the Premier League era – and our United have gone close once or twice in between some truly miserable defeats.
Surely Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan, all meagre forces in the top flight, should have been dispatched with more regularity than three wins in the last 25 attempts?
As a stat-fiend Alan Pardew will probably note these troubling statistics and then chuck them in the bin in his sparsely decorated office.
That would be the wisest move, because United will not travel to Old Trafford harbouring any sense of inferiority after the way they played against Manchester City on Saturday.
The Newcastle delegation which made its way to Manchester last night will have been just as encouraged by the evidence from the opposition camp.
As Portuguese champions Benfica proved conclusively on Tuesday night, there are gaping holes to exploit in this Manchester United defence if you are tempted to press hard enough.
United fans should not worry about whether Pardew sends out a team to attack.
For while his game-plan when Manchester United visited Old Trafford in April was to contain, there is more confidence in the more fluid and mobile side he has assembled in the intervening seven months.
Cheick Tiote will return to provide steel in the heart of midfield but he has already signalled Sammy Ameobi may be given a second start at Old Trafford, while all of the tactical plans being drawn up by the United boss so far include the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa – an impressive performer at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester United cseem to struggle against pace this season and their own attacking instincts leave gaps at the back which could be well-exploited by a player with the offensive armoury of a Ben Arfa.
Not that we should be hood-winked by the joy Benfica got on Tuesday.
Five successive clean sheets in the league may be a slightly fortunate record given the mistakes this inexperienced new-look Red Devils side have made, but it proves you have to come up with some ingenious ways to breach their back four.
The fact Wayne Rooney is being prepped for a return – Sir Alex Ferguson “rested” him against Benfica – will send a shiver down black and white spines.
Former Manchester United man Danny Simpson knows the challenge is a considerable one.
He may not have made many appearances at Old Trafford before seeking a professional career elsewhere, but he has seen enough teams wither at the so-called Theatre of Dreams to know the effect it can have on opposition who arrive without confidence.
He said: “Manchester United are a very good side, everyone can see that by the results they have had so far this season.
“Teams do struggle at Old Trafford because they know how difficult it is to get the win. It is a great ground and it can be difficult to play in when the fans are behind them.
“But our supporters are absolutely amazing and they will give us great support as they do week in, week out.
“You are not champions for nothing and they have added very good players in the summer.
“But we are going there with the confidence and the belief we can claim a win.”
So United go to Old Trafford this weekend hoping to make history. They have the players and the approach to do it but, if they are tempted to seek additional help, maybe they could take a leaf out of our sister ‘paper the Evening Chronicle’s book.
They hired Uri Geller to run around Highbury 11 times to help break the London hoodoo – only for Newcastle to nab the 3-1 win which ushered in a new era in the capital!
Anyone got the spoon-bender’s number?
HOW THE NORTH WEST BECAME NEWCASTLE’S BOGEY POSTCODE
UNITED’S record (won three, drawn three, lost 19) in the last 25 trips to the Greater Manchester area is nothing short of horrific. A meagre three wins – against Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn – since 2005.
2011/12: Lost v Manchester City (1-3, PL), lost v Blackburn (3-4, CC)
2010/11: Drew v Blackburn (0-0, PL), WON v Wigan (1-0, PL), lost v Bolton (1-5, PL), lost v Man City (1-2, PL), lost v Man United (0-3)
2008/9: Lost v Bolton (0-1, PL), lost v Man City (1-2, PL), lost v Blackburn (0-3, PL), lost v Wigan (1-2, PL), drew v Man United (1-1)
2007/8: Lost v Man United (0-6, PL), lost v Wigan (0-1, PL), lost v Blackburn (1-3, PL), lost v Man City (1-3, PL), WON v Bolton (3-1, PL)
2006/7: Lost v Wigan (0-1, PL), lost v Bolton (1-2, PL), WON v Blackburn (3-1, PL), drew v Man City (0-0, PL), lost v Man United (0-2, PL)
2005/6: Lost v Man United (0-2, PL), lost v Man City (0-3, PL), lost v Wigan (0-1, CC).
Points tally: 12pts from 69 possible pts and two defeats in the Carling Cup.
FAMOUSLY, it used to be London where United wobbled but Newcastle’s record in the capital over the last five years is much, much improved (won eight, drawn four, lost 13).
2011/12: Drew v QPR (0-0, PL).
2010/11: Drew v Chelsea (2-2, PL), lost v Fulham (0-1, PL), lost v Spurs (0-2, PL), WON v Arsenal (1-0, PL), WON v West Ham (2-1, PL), WON v Chelsea (4-3, CC).
2009/10: WON v QPR (1-0, Champ), WON v Crystal Palace (2-0, Champ).
2008/9: Lost v Spurs (0-1, PL), drew v Chelsea (0-0, PL), lost v Fulham (1-2, PL), lost v West Ham (1-3, PL), lost v Arsenal (0-3, PL).
2007/8: Drew v West Ham (2-2, PL), WON v Spurs (4-1, PL), lost v Arsenal (0-3, PL), lost v Arsenal (0-3, FAC), lost v Chelsea (1-2, PL), WON v Fulham (1-0, PL), lost v Arsenal (0-2, CC).
2006/7: Lost v Charlton (0-2, PL), lost v Fulham (1-2, PL), WON v Tottenham (3-2, PL), lost v Chelsea (0-1, PL).
Points tally: 25pts from 66 possible pts; 1 win in the Carling Cup, 1 defeat in the Carling Cup and 1 defeat in the FA Cup.