The Magpies and Red Devils are currently flying high in the Premier League, both in the top six and in the hunt for Champions League spots. Now the two managers have the chance to battle it out for silverware at Wembley in the Carabao Cup final.
As for Newcastle themselves, recent performances have been a concern but there is still reason to be positive, with Miguel Almiron signing a new deal keeping him at the club until 2026.
The Paraguay international is the club’s top scorer this season with 10 goals to his name as well as assisting a further three – though he has found goals hard to come by in the second half of the season, scoring most recently in Newcastle’s 1-1 draw against Bournemouth after a barren run of nine games.
His form will be key if Newcastle are to get a positive result at Wembley. Another midfielder whose presence will provide a boost is Bruno Guimaraes, who has missed the last three fixtures due to suspension.
Newcastle haven’t lost a game in which Guimaraes has started, only losing out to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup third round proper, a game in which the Brazil international scored after coming off the bench.
In the league, the Magpies have averaged scored 1.81 goals per game with Guimaraes on the pitch and conceded just 0.45, underlining just how critical he is at both ends. So if they are to win against Manchester United, he could well have a big say.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Nick Pope will to miss out through suspension meaning that Loris Karius could be in line to start a first major final since that infamous Champions League showdown with Real Madrid in Kyiv.
Former Arsenal man Joe Willock is also an injury doubt for this game, but Howe is hopeful of a late return.
“Joe Willock will probably be touch and go during the week,” said Howe.
“He’s improved, (it will) probably be a late decision on him.”
Willock’s return could have a big say on where Joelinton starts and whether youngster Elliott Anderson is given an opportunity.
Left-back Matt Targett is also set to be available for selection but is unlikely to start given Dan Burn’s solid form in that position of late. Goals are likely to be at a premium for United without Rashford – the England international is the club’s top scorer with 24 goals and seven assists in all competitions.
As for Ten Hag, the big potential absentee is Marcus Rashford. The club are still assessing his fitness after his knock against Barcelona.
Anthony Martial is yet to return to first team action with a hip injury.
Despite Rashford’s absence, there is cause for optimism in the United camp with Antony’s goal-scoring return to the side against Barcelona. The forward had missed the past four fixtures with a leg injury, but made a decisive return to action, helping United progress to a round of 16 clash against Real Betis.
Fred vs Guimaraes
In Christian Eriksen’s absence, Fred has been an important presence for Ten Hag in the middle of the park.
Most recently, he has shown his creativity in forward areas, assisting Rashford in back-to-back games against Barcelona and Leicester City. In the second leg at Old Trafford, Fred was instrumental in United’s comeback against Xavi’s side, scoring the all-important equaliser.
“He had an important role already last week in Barcelona, this week the same,” Ten Hag said, after the win against Barcelona.
“He had first to stop Frenkie de Jong from playing, he had to play as a mosquito around him and go behind him and he did it magnificently.”
A similar job will be necessary on Guimaraes against Newcastle, but no doubt Fred will know what to expect from his compatriot at Wembley.
Antony vs Burn
Antony was more than a handful for Newcastle when the two sides faced off at Old Trafford and round two is expected to go along similar lines, especially with Rashford out.
Burn struggled to keep up with the Brazilian in the 0-0 draw away from home and this battle could be another decider in wide areas. Antony has six goals and one assist to his name so far this season but his impact on the team has been felt outside of his offensive contributions.
Ten Hag was full of praise after Antony’s match-winning goal against Barcelona.
“”He is brave, he is fearless, so I think what he brought second half was what we needed, running in behind and dribbles and his goal,” said Ten Hag.
“He is brave and will go with it and when he has the opportunity he will shoot.”
Newcastle: Karius, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Guimaraes, Willock, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin, Wilson, Almiron
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, Casemiro, Fred, Antony, Weghorst, Sancho, Fernandes
Weghorst v Joelinton
Two players who established themselves as strikers but have since taken on different roles for their current teams, Wout Weghorst and Joelinton will be another potentially key battle.
Depending on whether Weghorst continues to play the number 10 role, he and Joelinton will be crucial in terms of holding the ball up and bringing their team-mates into play.
Both are tall strikers, though Joelinton is the younger and more agile player. However, Weghorst has been central to United’s pressing approach from the front, willing to get stuck into tackles as well as make himself a nuisance in the box.
Joelinton is a strong carrier of the ball and is able to dribble past markers as well, and since his reinvention into a midfield role, he has been a huge presence for the Magpies.
As for Weghorst, his new role has seen him get involved in build-up play and be able to help Ten Hag and his side win the ball back quickly after losing it.