STEVE BRUCE has challenged Allan Saint-Maximin to follow in the footsteps of David Ginola and become the next flamboyant Frenchman to establish himself as a firm fans’ favourite at St James’ Park.

Saint-Maximin, whose sparkling start to the season saw him rewarded with a new six-year contract earlier this week, is the latest in a lengthy line of French forwards to have excited Tyneside crowds in recent years.

The likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Laurent Robert have dazzled with their wing play, but it is Ginola who remains the totem by which Newcastle’s French legion continue to be judged.

The mercurial left winger spent two seasons with the Magpies, and is still regarded as a cult hero at St James, and while Bruce accepts Saint-Maximin remains at an early stage of his development, he sees no reason why the 23-year-old cannot eventually go on to emulate his compatriot.

“Well, there’s one thing that we’re not going to deny - he’s got the ability,” said Bruce, ahead of this evening’s meeting with his former club, Manchester United. “He’s done well enough for the club to reward him with a new six-year deal, now the next step for him is to go and really be part of the history of this great club of ours.

“Can he be a David Ginola? He can be anything he wants to be, let’s be brutally honest, he can be anything he wants to be. I hope in time that little bit of maturity, which will surely come one day… and yet, you’ve got to still have that maverick in him which makes him the player that he is.

“He does things which are just off the radar. I wish we had it on tape – he scored a goal in training the other day which was just ludicrous how good it was, I think we all applauded. We know what he’s got in terms of ability, it’s the next step up, that maturity that surely will come to him, and then he’s got the world at his feet.”

This evening, Saint-Maximin will be charged with the task of piling further misery onto a Manchester United side that suffered a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Tottenham on their last outing.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were embarrassed as they shipped six goals at home, and as well as being without the suspended Anthony Martial tonight, they could also be deprived of the services of Harry Maguire, whose run of poor form plumbed new depths when he was sent off for England on Wednesday night.

There is arguably no better time for Newcastle to be facing Manchester United, but having overcome a few crises during his own time at Old Trafford, Bruce is fully expecting a backlash from his former club tonight.

“I always fear when they’ve had a bad result because usually they come out all guns blazing,” he said. “That backlash is what we’ve got to be wary of.

“They will be disappointed I am sure, and the one way to get over a bad result is the next game and they have got us next time up, so we have to be ready for that and ready for the challenge.”

Newcastle should have Jamal Lewis available tonight, with the defender having recovered from the knock that curtailed his international involvement with Northern Ireland.

Skipper Jamaal Lascelles should also return to action after he was forced to miss the 3-1 win over Burnley that preceded the international break, and Fabian Schar has also been given a clean bill of health after starting all three of Switzerland’s matches during the international break.

It had been feared Schar had aggravated a shoulder injury during the Burnley win, but those worries have been allayed.

Paul Dummett, Ciaran Clark and Matty Longstaff are all back in training, but the trio are set to have a run-out with the Under-23s on Monday before being considered for first-team duty.

Martin Dubravka remains sidelined, but while there were reports earlier this week suggesting the Slovakian had suffered a setback to his recovery from injury, Bruce insists Newcastle’s medical staff remain satisfied with his progress, even if he is slightly behind schedule.

“It’s been reported that there’s been a setback with him – we see it more that we thought he might be a little bit more advanced than he is at the minute,” he said. “He’s not.

“We never really put a timescale on somebody who’s had an operation, but it’s fair to say it’s slower in his recovery than we would have liked, so we’re not going to put a timescale on it, we’re going to let nature its course.

“As I said, we’d like him to be a little bit more advanced, but he isn’t, so we will just have to let nature take its course.”

Newcastle (probable, 4-4-1-1): Darlow; Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Lewis; Saint-Maximin, Hayden, Shelvey, Hendrick; Almiron; Wilson.