Newcastle vs Man United: Anthony Gordon can make a statement for England by outshining Marcus Rashford

Newcastle United host Manchester United on Saturday evening with just one point and one place between them in the Premier League table. Their relative rankings may be close, but the two clubs feel worlds apart at the moment – even if they have a strange overlap in many factors this season.

Both clubs drew in Champions League games during the week, with much of it riding on the results. The Magpies obviously got the better result, but perhaps ended up feeling worse; This is the roller coaster ride of emotions in football: Paris Saint-Germain managed a 1-1 draw, but conceded a hotly debated penalty in the final minutes.

The Red Devils, meanwhile, blew a two-goal lead much earlier in the game and could have still won their game, with Galatasaray escaping with a 3-3 draw in the end. Neither currently has a chance of progressing in their groups and both face an uphill battle domestically to regain a place in the top four to re-join Europe’s elite in 2024/25.

It is the visitors to St James’ Park who appear to be struggling with a whole host of problems: an underperforming goalkeeper earning big money, a manager under increased scrutiny, a whole host of problems away from it Pitch this season, an impending takeover Ice-cold pace and mutiny in the fan base towards the current owners, who now look like they will stay put. In contrast, Newcastle as a club appears united and together: a coaching group that has significantly improved the squad, remained progressive in the competition compared to two years ago and has gradually contributed to the memorable events on home soil. And yet it is Man United who go into the game top of the table, United who have taken more points in their last four league games and United who are struggling with a far shorter injury and absence list.

Such a confused mix of truths and perceptions is not uncommon, but this direct duel could be crucial in the battle for the top four places. Despite initial performances, it is difficult to compete against Newcastle as they are in better shape to take valuable points.

Their work rate, team chemistry and near-flawless home form are all important factors for this game, isolated against a Ten Hag side who still seem tactically broken and mentally very fragile when periods of the game go against them. Add to that the fact that they don’t score many goals – just 16 is the lowest number in the Premier League’s top 12 – and that their away wins this season have all come against teams ranked 14th or lower ranked, it will be even harder to see the Red Devils claim a morale-boosting win.

Bruno Fernandes found the target in midweek in Istanbul


A closer look at the head-to-head duels that could shape the game reveals a broader, longer-term rivalry, with players competing against each other for places in England’s Euro 2024 squad.

With Mason Mount out of the question for now, Man United perhaps have three players who would be considered general certainties under Gareth Southgate: Harry Maguire, now a first-team player again at club level; Marcus Rashford – completely out of form and recently moved to the right wing – and Luke Shaw, who has just returned from injury at left-back.

Maguire appears untouchable, partly due to the lack of alternative frontrunners, but the same can hardly be said for the other two.

Having switched wings, Rashford may now find himself in direct confrontation with two names of interest to the Three Lions, including a player considered by some to be in such form that he cannot be continually overlooked: Anthony Gordon , Newcastle’s left-wing striker, as well as Tino Livramento, nominally a right-back but excelling on the left against PSG.

Tino Livramento shone in Newcastle’s 1-1 draw with Paris


It may be fanciful to suggest that Livramento could usurp a senior player so quickly and outside of his normal role, but given Southgate’s lack of consistently available and excellent left-back options, it’s not an impossibility either, especially when he defends the way he does has done regularly at the Parc des Princes.

Moving forward, it’s a different story.

By the numbers, Rashford still has an impact on United’s attack in terms of his basic dribbling and shooting skills, but his end result has been pathetic. He takes more shots than Gordon – total and per 90 league minutes – yet fewer are on target. His decision-making can also be questioned at times, having saved more shots this season than anyone else at Man United has ever attempted, apart from Bruno Fernandes. And it is the fact that he has only scored two goals in total in all competitions, one of them from the penalty spot, while Gordon has scored five goals.

The Newcastle man has found the finishing touch that had previously been conspicuously missing and even thrived when asked to manage the team – while Rashford, who spent several stints in the same job at Old Trafford, is further afield than ever before seems to be a normal center forward who has now even moved away from his preferred left flank.

Marcus Rashford has only scored two goals in all competitions this season


As for the national team, they overlap in many characteristics: fast ball carriers, direct runners behind the defense, hard workers in defense and goal threat in central areas.

Form is naturally subject to ebbs and flows. It’s no secret which of the two is currently closer to its peak, and while April and May – a time of trophies and international selections – still seem a long way off, one team seems a long way off to be better able to offer his striker a platform on which he can play consistently.

An isolated game will not decide the fate of these clubs, who will aim for a top four place or who will actually make it to the last 23 for England. But if the game is decided primarily by the in-form Gordon, the calls for inclusion are only expected to grow louder – and Rashford is the obvious candidate to give way.

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