Newcastle face a brutal test of character on Sunday when they face a Manchester United side still harbouring aspirations of catching neighbours City at the top of the Premier League table.

Sitting just a point above the relegation zone in a congested bottom-half of the table, Rafa Benitez and his players know they could conceivably rise closer to the top-ten or sink into the bottom three when the final whistle blows at St James’ Park.

‘It’s the hope that kills you’ is an idiom that is regularly spoken by Magpies fans and with the odds stacked heavily against Benitez’s side few will be optimistic that Newcastle attain a result that could change the course of their season for the better.

A testing run of fixtures awaits Newcastle, with trips to Liverpool and Tottenham forming part of the next five matches, and a victory over the Red Devils would represent a timely confidence boost for Benitez and his charges.

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