By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – Two of the unhappiest sets of supporters in the country will be hoping to alleviate at least some of their shared misery when Newcastle United and Manchester United meet at St James’ Park in the Premier League on Tuesday.
Manchester United produced another tedious performance and needed a stoppage-time penalty from Wayne Rooney to beat League One (third tier) Sheffield United 1-0 in a dreary FA Cup third- round match on Saturday.
Their fans cheering ironically when Memphis Depay produced the team’s first shot on target after 65 minutes and United have now gone 10 home games without a goal before the break.
Newcastle fans jeered their team off after they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round for the fourth successive season after losing 1-0 at Watford on Saturday.
Manchester United are still in the FA Cup and in contention for a top-four finish despite their ragged displays, but they were slated by former player Paul Scholes after another dull display against Sheffield United, 47 league places below them.
Scholes, who played more than 700 matches for United, told BT Sport if he was manager Louis van Gaal it would take him two or three days to get over that.
“I’d have my head down between my legs. I would be depressed if I had been part of that performance,” Scholes said.
Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini thinks his team’s fans were right to boo them as they clocked up six hours without a goal.
“They are unhappy and they have to know we keep trying and working hard to get results,” he said. “We have had some nasty results but we all want to win and turn this around.”
Newcastle are 18th in the 20-team league and in a fight to avoid a return to the Championship after six seasons in the top flight.
The first of Manchester United’s seven goalless draws this season came at home against Newcastle in August and they are now fifth with 33 points.
Leaders Arsenal, on 42 points, travel to Liverpool on Wednesday and second-placed Leicester City (40) play fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur (36) at White Hart Lane for the second time in four days following a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Third-placed Manchester City (39) face Everton for the second time in a week after losing 2-1 to Roberto Martinez’s men in the League Cup semi-final first leg at Goodison Park.
City bounced back from that setback with a superb 3-0 win at Norwich City in the FA Cup.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce criticised the Premier League last week for scheduling this round of fixtures so close to the FA Cup games, but his focus now is entirely on league survival after Sunderland were knocked out by holders Arsenal.
Sunderland, who are one off the bottom, face a relegation scrap at Swansea City, two places and four points above them.
Swansea’s poor run continued when they were victims of the biggest FA Cup shock of the weekend, losing 3-2 at League Two (fourth tier) Oxford United.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)