Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must find solution to Manchester United's away day struggles at Newcastle
Watch Newcastle vs Manchester United live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 4pm on Sunday; Kick-off 4.30pm
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 06/10/19 2:31pm
In the celebrations that followed Manchester United's 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes in March, even the most pessimistic of supporters could not have predicted that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men would not win any of their next 10 away games.
It felt like anything was possible for that young United side, but seven turbulent months later and the outlook is very different. Solskjaer faces a long list of problems at United, but their dismal away form ranks somewhere near the top.
Solskjaer did his best to put Thursday's dreary goalless draw with AZ Alkmaar in a positive light. "It's a good point away from home against a difficult opponent," he said. But patience is wearing thin for many fans and the pressure is on to end the run against Newcastle on Super Sunday.
United's winless run has featured four draws and six defeats. It has included a 1-1 draw with relegated Huddersfield, a 4-0 thrashing by Marco Silva's Everton and, more recently, an abject 2-0 loss to West Ham at the London Stadium. Another setback on Sunday would be tough to take.
To put United's struggles on the road in context, only relegation-threatened Watford and crisis-hit Tottenham have gone longer without a Premier League away win. Solskjaer said he was "not worried" about United's away form last month, but the truth is that he should be.
Who will score United's goals?
One of the biggest obstacles to United's hopes of claiming three points at St James' Park is the absence of any kind of scoring threat. United have only netted more than one goal in one of their last 16 games in all competitions.
The issues have been particularly pronounced on their travels. In those last 10 away games, they have only scored five goals. Against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday, they did not even manage a shot on target.
United need goals from somewhere but their options do not inspire confidence. In fact, confidence is something Marcus Rashford in particular seems to be badly lacking at the moment.
The 21-year-old was challenged to step up and be the main man after the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez during the summer, but he has only netted once in his last eight appearances.
Daniel James has made valuable contributions, but he is without a goal in five games having netted three in his first four. Anthony Martial is still unavailable due to injury, and the only other out-and-out striking option beyond that is Mason Greenwood. The teenager is an exciting prospect, but he has only just turned 18 and made little impact against AZ.
Solskjaer desperately needs someone to step up and take responsibility at St James' Park but Paul Pogba is a doubt and so too is Jesse Lingard after he suffered a hamstring injury on Thursday. It does not get any easier.
Right time to face Newcastle?
In Steve Bruce's Newcastle, Manchester United are at least facing a side with significant issues of their own. The mood around St James' Park is desperately low following Rafael Benitez's departure in the summer and a poor start to the new campaign under the new man in charge.
Last weekend's 5-0 thrashing away to Leicester the heaviest blow yet. Newcastle were reduced to 10 men following Isaac Hayden's first-half sending off, but even before that there was little cause for encouragement. By the final whistle, they had not managed a shot on target. In fact, they were fortunate the scoreline was not worse.
With Newcastle at their lowest ebb, it could be a good time for Manchester United to face them. Bruce, however, sees it as an opportunity for his side. "It is a wonderful time to play them because it will be a full house, live on the TV," he said. "If ever we needed to bounce back against anybody, what better way than against them."
Even in their current malaise, Newcastle are entitled to fancy their chances. This Manchester United side could not overcome League One Rochester without the help of a penalty shootout and their goalless draw with AZ showed that Solskjaer is still searching for solutions.
Pressure building on the managers
Solskjaer and Bruce are among bookmakers' favourites to be the next Premier League managers to leave their jobs, but they are defiant in the face of the mounting pressure.
"Mud has been thrown my way since I walked through the door, that's not going to change," said Bruce. "The only thing that can change it for me is results. I'm determined, if I possibly can, to turn it around and take the club forward. That has been my remit since I arrived.
"I'm a resilient so and so. You wouldn't be human if it didn't affect you in some sort of way but you try and get on with your job as best you can. These days you don't get the time that you would like to get, you have to get results instantly."
The pressure for results is building on Solskjaer too, but he wants Manchester United to start looking forward not back.
"We're not in the 90s now so it's a different era, a different group that we're building. We know there are going to be ups and downs," he said.
"I don't know what opponents think of us. I just know that sometimes when you walk off games we're not doing bad.
"Sometimes there's a gap. I've felt that a couple of times but not very often. I can't think about what anyone else is thinking about us. We're working to improve and that's what we have to do."
How to watch the game
Newcastle vs Man Utd is live on Renault Super Sunday from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.