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Newcastle United vs. Manchester United: Red Devils Need Rooney in EPL Clash

CLUJ-NAPOCA, ROMANIA - OCTOBER 02:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United battles with Matias Aguirregaray of CFR 1907 Cluj during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between CFR 1907 Cluj and Manchester United at the Constantin Radulescu Stadium on October 2, 2012 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Ethan GrantAnalyst IOctober 5, 2012

Manchester United are set to take on the Magpies of Newcastle United on Sunday, after beating them just two weeks ago in the League Cup.

For the Red Devils to stay steady in the top four English Premier League standings, Wayne Rooney needs to have a big day—possibly in a new position.

A sluggish start to the season for Manchester United has left critics ready to fire, especially with Robin van Persie now on board with Sir Alex Ferguson's club.

It's certainly not the start they expected; they've been exposed in the middle of the field and outmatched in other affairs—specifically in the 2-3 loss to Tottenham.

Now, in a matchup with Newcastle, United will have to contend with Demba Ba and the Magpies attack. They can ill afford another loss if they want to build any momentum on both domestic and European fronts this season.

At the heart of that is Rooney, who was benched to start the previous game against Spurs because he was not over his injured thigh. 

Furthermore, with so many injuries to key defensive players, Man U has struggled at the back, forcing the attack to be much more carefully planned out with less help from the ageing Rio Ferdinand.

Rooney and van Persie have looked great on the field together, with Rooney picking up two assists in the club's last midweek match with CFR Cluj; van Persie the grateful recipient. 

To beat the Magpies at Sports Direct Arena, Rooney is going to have to step up big.

Newcastle tastes blood in the water, so to speak, after watching Tottenham pick up the 3-2 win over the Red Devils. No doubt their confidence is going to be high, especially with the Red Devils being on the road.

Could stepping up big include dropping back to midfield?

With Man U currently in third with 12 points on the EPL season, they need a big win to stay a top the standings, especially with Chelsea jumping out to a four point lead, and Tottenham right on their trail with 11.

In a drop back to midfield, Rooney would help shore up one of the biggest holes over the past few weeks.

With van Persie now clearly the most legitimate threat up front, the Devils need some help in other parts of their lineup, at least until the injury bug stops hitting the club.

It's been a treat to watch the new power duo, Rooney and van Persie, click over their first few matches together.

But it's Rooney who needs to elevate his play even more to carry Manchester United through this rough patch, as he's done so many times before in his career.

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