Newcastle's Cabaye: It's still Manchester United's title
Published 22:30 03/01/12 By Simon Bird
Yohan Cabaye has singled out Manchester United as favourites for the title - because they are more of a team that neighbours Man City.
Newcastle's French midfielder is hoping to play a big role in Alan Pardew’s side handing Wayne Rooney another hangover at St James’ Park on Wednesday.
Cabaye has called on his team-mates to join in the festive season's run of shock results, and end a poor points haul of just five from the last 24 available.
The Geordies still believe they can clinch a top seven place and, with a run of luck, squeeze into the Europa League qualifying zone, he says.
But it will take a mammoth effort against Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, who Magpies boss Alan Pardew expects to recall big guns Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs.
Playmaker Cabaye, signed for £5million from Lille in the summer, said: “I think it will be between the two Manchester clubs. United are more like a team, because they have been together for a long time. The players have gelled very well together.
“City look less like a team, more like a group of individuals. But [then] they haven’t been together for as long. If City gel, they will be a very good team. United know what they have to do, and they have a good manager.
“Before I came to England, I was always told that Christmas was the most important time of the season. Unfortunately for United, they’ve got a crop of injuries at this time. The manager had to put out a weird team at the weekend [when they lost at home to lowly Blackburn] because of that.
“But we know they rarely lose two in a row and we will be ready for a backlash. Especially Rooney. He is a huge player, with a lot of quality. But it is not just him in the team - there will be lots of players we have to watch out for.”
Pardew will have African Cup of Nations-bound duo Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba available - and a rows are brewing over when the pair will be released.
Newcastle want Tiote to play on Saturday in the FA Cup against Blackburn, but the Ivory Coast star has been told to board a morning flight to a training camp in the UAE.
Pardew is frustrated by the lack of communication from Tiote’s national boss and Newcastle have called in the English FA to see that all African players are treated equally and released from clubs at the same time.
Tiote's fellow Ivorian Yaya Toure, for example, could be held back by Manchester City until after their midweek Carling Cup semi against Liverpool.
Pardew said: “We’re speaking to the FA. We want to know what’s been decided with other clubs and who is eligible to play and are all African Cup of Nations’players going to go on Saturday morning, or Friday, or after the game on Sunday. When is it they actually have to officially report? We’re seeking clarification.
“It has to be fair. Losing those two players on the back of a two day turnaround before the FA Cup... that would impact on us again. We’re obviously trying to make sure they’re going to play in that game but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Regarding Wednesday night’s clash, Pardew said: “Looking at the recent games, teams that have sat back against United have got thumped. They’ve got such talent in their ranks, they’re going to cause you problems.
"But we have a striker who is in form, a central midfield pairing that I think’s as good as theirs and the back line and the goalie have been resolute all year, so we’re in a good position.
“Clubs like ourselves, when the big clubs come along, you have to get yourself up and ready for them and we are looking forward to it - Man United on the back of a disappointing result.
"I fancy they will be fired up for it, as we are after getting beaten by Liverpool. I think it will be a good game.”