Newcastle's way to combat Manchester United ?

Under threat: Taylor

Under threat: Taylor

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

1 Should Ryan Taylor remain in the Newcastle team?

He has been the surprise success story of the season, but Saturday's game at the Etihad Stadium was arguably the first in which Ryan Taylor has looked like a defender playing out of position.

Admittedly, he was up against the in-form Micah Richards, whose pace and power can expose the best of defenders, but his positioning was poor and having already conceded a penalty, his flustered attempt at a clearance was the major factor in City's second goal.

Davide Santon was an unused substitute at the weekend, and the former Inter Milan full-back will be desperate to add to his solitary Newcastle start at Blackburn in the Carling Cup.

Manchester United started with Nani and Phil Jones down the right-hand side against Swansea, so the left-hand side of Newcastle's defence could come under sustained pressure in three days time.

Does Taylor's impressive early-season form mean he deserves some leeway? Or is now the time to get £5m man Santon into the side?

2 Who should start on the right of midfield at the weekend?

Sammy Ameobi lined up on the right-hand side last weekend, and while the youngster did not do a lot wrong on his maiden Premier League start, he is unlikely to retain his place against United.

Gabriel Obertan is expected to be available after a toe injury, and the former Manchester United winger was an established part of Pardew's preferred line up in the opening ten games.

It will be easy enough for Pardew to restore the Frenchman to the team, but assuming Cheik Tiote also returns from injury in central midfield, is there an argument for playing Danny Guthrie on the right-hand side?

Guthrie was superb in the recent wins over Stoke and Everton, and while he didn't quite hit those heights against Manchester City, he would add some midfield solidity from a narrow role on the right.

However, would he be able to push forward and carry an attacking threat as effectively as the more mobile Obertan?

3 Does Hatem Ben Arfa deserve to keep his starting spot?

Despite last weekend's defeat, there were a number of bright spots to emerge from the Etihad Stadium, and the brightest was probably the performance of Hatem Ben Arfa on his first Premier League start of the season.

The Frenchman was at the heart of most of Newcastle's best attacking moves, even hitting the post midway through the second half, but also displayed a welcome willingness to track back and help form a five-man midfield when required.

Pardew was effectively forced to play him against City, but Leon Best's anticipated return from groin and foot injuries means the Magpies manager has an alternative option ahead of this weekend's game with United.

Best's partnership with Ba was an integral part of Newcastle's lengthy unbeaten run, and the duo appear to complement each other perfectly. But is an out-and-out 4-4-2 formation too attacking for Old Trafford? Would it be better to field Ben Arfa in a more withdrawn role?

4 Should Newcastle field a high defensive line?

One of Pardew's biggest frustrations with last weekend's defeat was the way in which his side began to drop deep as soon as Manchester City gained the upper hand.

For the opening 40 minutes, Newcastle's back four were pushing up at every opportunity to squeezing the space in which City's attacking play-makers were able to play.

The ploy worked well for a while, but City's dominance of possession eventually forced Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini to drop towards their own 18-year-box, enabling the likes of Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri to play in more prominent positions.

Should Pardew instruct his back four to push on and constrict the space that Manchester United's midfielders can play in?

Or would adopting a high line against United's strikers be a recipe for disaster?

It has been hard to second guess Sir Alex Ferguson's team selections this season, but both Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez possess plenty of pace.

5 Just how positive should Newcastle's game plan be?

Coming on the back of their first Premier League defeat of the season, Old Trafford is probably the last ground Newcastle would want to be visiting this weekend.

The Magpies have not won at Old Trafford since 1972 and have conceded ten goals in their last three visits. Since being thrashed by City, United have reverted to type and recorded three successive wins. Surely this is a game that demands caution?

Yet it is hard to escape the feeling that the current United side is inferior to the City team that beat Newcastle last weekend, and that Saturday's opponents are still not firing on all cylinders.

Their last three wins have all been by a one-goal margin, and the Magpies will still be going into this weekend's game with plenty of confidence despite last Saturday's defeat. Will there be a better time to turn up at Old Trafford and really give it a go?

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