Man United's injury problems this season have been well-documented, but the Red Devils' fitness concerns pale into insignificance when compared to a ravaged Newcastle unit, who were once again forced to dip into the club's academy ranks to fill the bench at St James' Park.
Nevertheless, Eddie Howe's decimated side were a class above Erik ten Hag's tepid troops on a freezing cold North East evening and got their just rewards in the second half, when the lively Anthony Gordon met a Kieran Trippier ball into the six-yard box to tap home at the back stick.
Ten Hag's men had enjoyed a revival of sorts in the top flight heading into the festive period, prevailing in five of their previous six top-flight battles and keeping clean sheets in three on the trot before making the trip to Tyneside, but the under-fire Dutchman was under no illusions that his side were second best all evening long.
Also reeling from another Champions League capitulation versus Galatasaray, Man United have been bumped down to seventh in the Premier League table ahead of the midweek round of fixtures, five points below Aston Villa in fourth place and only boasting 16 league goals in 2023-24 - by far the worst attacking return from any top-half team.
Eight of those strikes have come at the hosts' Theatre of Dreams headquarters, where only two of their last five Premier League games have ended with Man United coming out on the correct end of the scoreline, and if gameweek 14 is anything to go by, the Red Devils could take a leaf out of Chelsea's book when it comes to showing grit and determination.
Akin to public transport passengers waiting an age for a bus and two come at once, Enzo Fernandez had gone 30 Premier League games without scoring his maiden goal before the visit of Brighton, who succumbed to two strikes from the £106m Argentine in a five-goal extravaganza.
Fernandez's header and penalty either side of a Levi Colwill effort against his former team proved decisive, but it was far from a comfortable watch for the Stamford Bridge faithful, who witnessed captain Conor Gallagher dismissed on the stroke of half time while Facundo Buonanotte and Joao Pedro gave the Seagulls hope.
Pedro's header came with five minutes of added time on the board, but Pochettino's crop held on for an imperative win which the Argentine claimed demonstrated his side's "unity", allowing the 10 men of Chelsea to rise above West London rivals Brentford into 10th place in the Premier League rankings.
Continuing their commitment to entertainment, Chelsea have now amassed a striking 12 goals from their last four Premier League fixtures, albeit while shipping 11 at the other end of the field, and the Blues posted three straight wins in Premier League away games before their 4-1 humbling at the hands of Newcastle last month.
Man United and Chelsea can therefore empathise when it comes to St James' Park shortcomings, but the Blues coincidentally went down 4-1 to the Red Devils during May's Old Trafford contest, which ended a sequence of five consecutive draws between the two battered behemoths.
Ex-Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount may have expected a frosty reception from the travelling fans, but the Englishman will not be involved against his erstwhile employers, having only just returned to training from a calf problem.
None of Tyrell Malacia (knee), Lisandro Martinez (foot), Casemiro (thigh), Christian Eriksen (knee), Amad Diallo (knee) or Jonny Evans (thigh) will make their comebacks for the hosts just yet either, while Jadon Sancho remains in exile.
After giving Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford the nod at St James' Park, Ten Hag will certainly ponder recalls for Rasmus Hojlund and Antony for the visit of Chelsea, with Rashford in particular being chastised for a perceived lack of effort and desire during Saturday's lowly loss.
While two Chelsea players in Reece James and Marc Cucurella have now served Premier League bans and are available again, the Blues will cope without Gallagher on Wednesday evening owing to the stand-in captain's sending off for two yellow cards against Brighton, opening up a spot for Cole Palmer to return to the XI.
James is also primed to come in on the right, but Colwill's goal at the weekend could see the ex-Brighton loanee keep Cucurella at bay, unless Pochettino decides that fresh legs take precedence this week; such an approach could see Axel Disasi shifted into a central role in place of 39-year-old Thiago Silva.
Wesley Fofana (knee), Carney Chukwuemeka (knee), Trevoh Chalobah (thigh), Ben Chilwell (thigh), Malo Gusto (tendon), Christopher Nkunku (knee) and Romeo Lavia (ankle) remain confined to the treatment room, and they have been joined by the youthful Noni Madueke and Lesley Ugochukwu, both of whom are nursing muscular problems.
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
Onana; Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Mainoo; Antony, Fernandes, Garnacho; Hojlund
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Sanchez; James, Disasi, Badiashile, Colwill; Fernandez, Caicedo; Sterling, Palmer, Mudryk; Jackson
We say: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea
For all of Man United's perpetual struggles in the attacking third, Ten Hag's side are seldom torn to shreds at the back, and one never truly knows what to expect from Pochettino's Chelsea charges.
Goals are virtually a guarantee at both ends when the Blues step out onto the field, and such a theme should continue at Old Trafford, but we simply cannot pick a clear winner and expect a return to drawing ways for the two clubs this week.
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