Manchester United lost further ground in the race for the Premier League’s top four with a 2-0 loss against Watford.
That’s five points dropped in the past two league games and United are just seven behind Chelsea, who occupy the final Champions League qualification spot.
The festive period is crucial for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose side face Newcastle on Boxing Day with plenty of questions to answer.
We’ve picked out three which will be crucial in the Reds getting back on track at Old Trafford.
Can United handle Andy Carroll?
Carroll is yet to score a goal in his second spell at Newcastle, but he is now starting up front alongside Joelinton in Steve Bruce’s 3-5-2.
The powerful Geordie has given United problems in the past and is the type of striker who can exploit any nerves in a backline reeling from a poor defeat.
Miguel Almiron is now off the mark for the Magpies too, and Carroll is capable of occupying Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof to create space for the playmaker.
Is Paul Pogba fit to start?
United improved greatly at Vicarage Road when Paul Pogba made his return from injury off the substitutes bench.
Solskjaer has been keen to manage him carefully and the festive period is testing for players who are fully fit.
But it’s clear United need inspiration and Pogba offers as good a chance as any of providing it, if he’s fit to face the Magpies.
Are United actually better than Newcastle?
Of course United have better players than Newcastle.
But Newcastle have more Premier League wins than United this season, the same amount of points and won the meeting between the sides earlier in the season.
Bruce has been able to navigate backroom unrest, fan protests, chronic underinvestment and a lack of control over transfer targets to create a side with just as many points as United at the halfway stage of the season.
United obviously have the players of greater class but they need to show it at Old Trafford. A response to the Watford defeat is needed.
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