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NEWCASTLE: Sir Alex Ferguson has demanded a show of defiance from his players as Manchester United look to get their Premier League title challenge back on track at Newcastle on Sunday.
United’s 3-0 defeat at St James’ Park last season put a severe dent in Ferguson’s title ambitions and the Scot knows his side can’t afford a repeat following last weekend’s surprise home loss against Tottenham.
Ferguson’s third-placed team are already four points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, who have a home fixture against struggling Norwich on Saturday, and could go into the international break seven points off the top if they stumble against Newcastle.
But Ferguson loves to defy the odds when critics start to write off United and he called on his players to show their true colours on Tyneside.
“When you lose a game you have to recover,” Ferguson said. “We lost a game to Tottenham, we have to recover again. It’s as simple as that.
“Hopefully we can get a result Sunday, but it won’t be easy.
“They will be buoyed up, the supporters are great up there. It will be a hard game, no doubt about that, but hopefully we can navigate it.
“Of course it is always a difficult place to go and I think under (Alan) Pardew they’ve become a really committed team.”
Ferguson was full of praise for Magpies boss Pardew who was last week rewarded with an eight-year contract by Newcastle after their fifth-place finish last season.
“I think he’s done a great job, that’s obvious,” said Ferguson. “We all know he wasn’t anybody’s choice up in Newcastle, now he’s everybody’s choice.
“He’s done it on the back of selling quite a few players at the time.
Obviously they looked upon the financial position of some of the players and decided to cut the costs and bring in players on much lower salaries and they’re all performing.”
United will recall Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes into the squad after they all missed Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League win over Romanian outfit CFR Cluj, while Jonny Evans should be fit to play despite coming off in that game with a dead leg.
However, Pardew feels Newcastle are running into form at just the right time ahead of United’s visit.
Despite a solid start to the season that sees them defeated only once in their opening 11 games, Pardew has been critical of performance levels, insisting they must improve.
An impressive 3-0 Europa League victory in midweek against French side Bordeaux suggests Pardew’s message has got through.
“I’ve been critical in the dressing room of some of our performances so far, but against Bordeaux we played with more verve and vision,” he said.
Pardew went against his early-season policy by playing several of his more influential performers in the Europa League game.
But such was the ease with which victory was sealed, he is confident the team he sends out less than 72 hours later will have the energy levels to repel the threat posed by United.
“We didn’t have to work as hard as I thought we’d have to against Bordeaux, so in terms of energy we should be fine against United,” he said.
“We wanted to show our fans we’re taking the competition seriously while still keeping some key bodies fresh for Sunday and I think we’ve done that.” Pardew is without injured defenders Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Ryan Taylor.
Former Manchester United full-back Danny Simpson makes his first Premier League start for more than a month after recovering from a hamstring problem.
France midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, top scorer Demba Ba and Italy defender Davide Santon, who were all rested against Bordeaux, come back into the side. AFP