MANCHESTER ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United celebrates as teammate Nani scores the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on February 12 2011 in Manchester England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Newcastle United and Manchester United will meet on Tuesday in a nationally televised game. I sat down with CPC of The Busby Babe (SBN's Manchester United blog) and we exchanged questions and answers about each other's club. Follow the jump for CPC's answers to my questions.
UPDATE: The other half of the preview has been posted at TBB.
1) So, no treble for Manchester United this year. I have to imagine that the supporters are still satisfied with the season so far, yes?
I think you're always going to be happy with the chance for a double, but I think the supporters are a little disappointed in the squad's performance over the year. There hasn't really been that defining game, or that game where we put it all together and blasted someone for 5 or 6 goals. Sure, there's been moments of brilliance individually (Berbatov's hat trick against Liverpool and his 5 goal performance against Blackburn; Rooney's bicycle kick against City). There's been a lot of dropped points on the road (from the lead...) and I think if you look at seasons past, the squad seized on those moments and built on them going forward. I think if we'd taken all three points in games like Fulham, Everton and Bolton, where we held leads, we'd have the title won by now. But, we're in a good position, so I guess we can't complain too much.
2) How much longer can Edwin van der Sar play at a high level? Have you heard any transfer rumors that intrigue you as far as goalkeepers are concerned?
I think he has another season in him, but there are some at-home issues that are more pressing, which is understandable. The two names that keep popping up as far as transfers are Manuel Neuer from Schalke and David de Gea from Atletico Madrid. We're going to get a good look at Neuer since we're playing Schalke in the Champions League and I understand that Sir Alex has recently made a trip to Spain to get another look at de Gea.
3) The Red Devils have a quick turn-around following Saturday's loss to Manchester City, and they've already built up quite a lead over Arsenal. Do you see that affecting the way the team approaches this game?
I don't think one will have any effect on the other. This is in no way meant to offend Newcastle or it's supporters, but I think with a squad as deep as United, we can rest a few of the bigger names and put some other players on the pitch that will be very hungry to impress. We have Schalke, Arsenal, Schalke and Chelsea coming up on the schedule starting in a week. I hate saying it, but the reality of it is that stretch of games are the most important for the club between now and the end of May.
4) Obviously, Man Utd are a very strong side. I'm interested in your perception of their weaknesses. What has gone wrong whenever they have failed to achieve a positive result?
Set pieces. Defensively, we've been very prone to giving up a goal on them and offensively, we've yet to find someone as accurate on free kicks as we'd like. Yeah, Nani can put a spin on the ball, but he's nowhere near as accurate as Cantona, Beckham or Ronaldo. We've also shown that we are vulnerable on the counterattack, which goes hand-in-hand with pushing our fullbacks up the pitch as far as we do.
5) What would be your ideal Starting XI given all of your available players? What XI do you expect Fergie to field? Also, give us a prediction if you like.
Ideal XI: Van der Sar; Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani; Berbatov, Rooney (Hernandez for Berba at the hour)
Probable: Kuzszak; O'Shea, Smalling, Evans, Fabio; Valencia, Gibson, Carrick, Giggs; Rooney, Hernandez
Newcastle 1, United 2.