ALAN Pardew will issue his Newcastle United side with one simple instruction when they leave the dressing room at Old Trafford – don’t give the ball away!
Pardew’s side take on Manchester United in the Premier League this afternoon still reeling from Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby defeat.
And he feels Newcastle’s hopes of a Boxing Day result depend on their ability to retain possession.
Goalscoring is the other area which Pardew – who feels the club needs to sign a striker in next month’s transfer window – believes needs to improve in the New Year.
“Possession for this team is going to have to improve in 2015,” said Pardew, whose team won 1-0 at Old Trafford last season.
“But for the man in the street the obvious thing is goalscoring. So those two areas need improving.”
A goal from Yohan Cabaye gave Newcastle a 1-0 win at Man United, then managed by David Moyes, a year ago.
“Three years ago we got a draw at Old Trafford, two years ago it was 4-3 and it was a hell of a game and we perhaps should have got something,” said Pardew.
“Last year we won. The big reason we’ve done well at Old Trafford is that we retained the ball.
“We had an equal share of possession. This particular Manchester United side, if they get to 60 per cent of possession, you’ve got no chance of winning the game.
“Because of the players they’ve got (Wayne) Rooney, Angel (Di Maria), (Robin) Van Persie, they’re just top talent.
“If they get enough of the ball they’re going to score a goal.”
Pardew is without a number of key players because of injury and suspension – Cheik Tiote will serve a one-game ban – and he doesn’t feel the club has a comparable No10 to Cabaye.
However, he believes he has enough pace to cause Louis van Gaal’s side problems.
“We were about possession type football with Cabaye in the No10 role,” he said.
“We haven’t got that type of player now. We’re not going to be able to dictate like we did that day, we’re a different side, different attributes.
“But we have good pace on the break – at times Manchester United could struggle.
“I’ll have to try to set up the team with more passing options maybe.”
Van Gaal, meanwhile, remains without injured trio Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind, while Marouane Fellaini is unavailable due to illness.
Chris Smalling has an outside chance of playing, but Marcos Rojo is unlikely to feature due to a thigh problem.
Wayne Rooney looks set to continue in the central midfield role he has occupied recently.
“Against Aston Villa, he was more of a defensive midfielder,” said van Gaal.
“He has the ability to run from box to box – that is also a little bit that he has to feel in the match, to read in the match that he can do that.
“That is a matter of time and I believe that he can do that.”
Man United have won 19 of their 22 Boxing Day matches since the Premier League began.