Alan Pardew tackled the elements out on Newcastle's training ground yesterday, but the manager, his coaching staff and his players never stood a chance in the face of North-east gales so severe that he was forced to call Sir Alex Ferguson and cancel a reserve-team fixture between the two Uniteds.
Tonight at St James' Park he will hope for greater success in facing another type of backlash, this time caused by Manchester United's defeat by Blackburn on Saturday and the latest indiscretion in Wayne Rooney's Old Trafford career. Commendably, Pardew says he will seek to add another twist to an intriguing Premier League title race by going on the offensive against the champions, despite Newcastle's own run of one win from eight games, a sequence which threatens to undermine their fine start to the season.
"Teams that have sat back [against Manchester United] have got thumped," he said. "They've got such talent in their ranks, they're going to cause you problems and you have to accept that, but we have a striker [Demba Ba] who is in form, a central midfield pairing that I think is as good as theirs ... and the back line and the goalie have been resolute all year. So we're in a good position to try and attack the game.
"I know 100 per cent Rooney will play. I think Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling will play, so suddenly their side looks a lot more balanced. I think [Ryan] Giggsy might be involved, because he sat in the stands on Saturday. If a team comes here, we expect them to play their strongest... I think they need to.
"We've played all the top teams now and we're close. Spurs was a fantastic game, probably our best game of the season at St James'. Arsenal was a great game. We were pushing against Chelsea at 1-0 down and unfortunately with a man down conceded two late goals but it was close. Manchester United at Old Trafford was 1-1, at Manchester City we gave a good account of ourselves and at Liverpool we did the same, although the result went against us.
"We're close [to the top six], we can see it, we can feel it, but we're not going to get away from the fact that actually beating one of those sides would be the final piece to take us forward."
Tonight they will have Ba and Cheick Tioté. Both are due to fly out to the African Cup of Nations at the weekend, although Newcastle hope to keep Tioté until after their third-round FA Cup tie with Blackburn on Saturday.
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