Quinn: No nightmares at the Theatre of Dreams...
RAFA WILL HAVE THE RIGHT GAMEPLAN FOR A POSITIVE RESULT AT OLD TRAFFORD
IT’S for occasions like this one that Newcastle United toiled through a 46-game Championship campaign for. Last season was a real slog, but the Magpies squad were able to get through it, knowing that if they achieved their goal they’d be visiting some of the most-iconic stadia in the world again this season. Manchester United away is among the biggest of them all. Every time you walk on to the Old Trafford pitch as a player, no matter how many times you do it, it is a special occasion.
I played there five times during my career – we lost four times, there were a few hammerings in there too, but I also experienced the joy of winning there – though never with Newcastle.
The only time I ever tasted success at Old Trafford was for Derby County in the quarter-final of the Youth Cup.
Before the game our manager, Tommy Doherty, told us we’d get a £100 bonus if we won. For apprentices who were picking up just £16 a week at the time, that was a heck of a lot of money.
And it was my goal that won us the game in the end. The scoreline was 2-2 before I popped up with the winner in front of more than 10,000 fans for a Youth Cup game – and that was one of the sweetest goals I ever scored.
Newcastle players cannot be daunted by the challenge; if they turn up tentative and fall behind early, then they could find themselves on the wrong end of a thumping.
Instead, the Magpies should go there with confidence. For a start, they have a master tactician in Rafa Benitez who knows exactly how to set up in these huge games.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I get the feeling this game could be set up perfectly for Newcastle.
Man United will want Newcastle to go at them, but Benitez will certainly not play a gung-ho style. He’ll look to frustrate the Red Devils, get a foothold in the game and then build from there.
Romelu Lukaku is going through a drought at the moment – he is a patchy striker like that, who scores in flurries then struggles for a while –
and I hope Newcastle can shackle him.
Jamaal Lascelles’ likely absence is a blow, but Ciaran Clark is a morethan-able deputy.
Clark needs to stay close to Lukaku, limit the Belgian’s space and then get into a physical battle with him, because I think that’s where the Man United forward struggles a little.
The former Everton man’s close-control isn’t the best, so the Magpies must isolate him and not allow Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial to create any gaps on the break. As for Newcastle themselves, I hope that Dwight Gayle starts in attack. He can stretch the Man United defence and make sure the visitors are a real threat on the break. This will be a huge test for Newcastle but, as I say, I am confident it is one they can pass. If they listen to Rafa and follow his gameplan to the letter, then a positive result is certainly possible. Mick Quinn