If there was ever a game that Newcastle United and Steve Bruce didn’t want after an international break, Manchester United away would be high on that list.
Throw into the mix an emotional homecoming for one of football’s greatest ever players, Cristiano Ronaldo, a depleted Newcastle side will head to a rocking Old Trafford fearing the worst.
Bruce’s ability to hurt Manchester United will be significantly reduced if the fears about Callum Wilson’s injury being worse than first feared come to fruition.
So the question is how will Bruce approach taking on his former side?
Should Steve Bruce stick or twist against Manchester United?
With injury concerns surrounding Wilson, Ryan Fraser, Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden, as well as Miguel Almiron’s availability being thrown into doubt according to the Daily Mail, after he wasn’t released to represent Paraguay during the international break, Bruce has several selection dilemmas.
It’s almost nigh on impossible that Bruce will set his team up to go after Manchester United because that will play right into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side’s hands.
With Wilson possibly facing an extended spell on the sidelines, Allan Saint-Maximin could face being deployed as a lone front man with Bruce opting to pack out the defence and midfield.
There is every possibility that Bruce could go with a 5-4-1 formation, sitting in a low block and attempting to frustrate United and starve them of space in behind.
If Almiron and Wilson are unavailable then the likes of Emil Krafth and Jamal Lewis could be recalled to double up in the wide areas to present crosses being delivered into the likes of Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani.
Other options could include Jeff Hendrick coming into midfield or Fabian Schar being pushed further forward and Ciaran Clark earning a recall.
But it seems very unlikely that the likes of Dwight Gayle or Joelinton will come into the starting line-up. You could make a case for the Brazilian to play and be used as a target man to take pressure off his side when they are inevitably under the cosh.
But the 25-year-old will likely be against two defenders who dominate aerially in Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane.
Bruce will be hoping that his side can nick a goal from a set piece and crash the Ronaldo homecoming party, but in order for his side to get a set piece in a dangerous position they’ll have to show attacking intent and it’s hard to see where that will come from bar Saint-Maximin.
A negative approach won’t go down well with fans, but it might be for the best. Newcastle need to be much more solid than they have been so far this season. If not, they could be on the end of a hammering.