Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has been “unlucky” to go without a goal in their last two games, says boss Erik ten Hag ahead of this weekend’s Premier League encounter with Newcastle United.

The forward has been in rich form this term, but has now gone without a finish across their prior two matches in all competitions to check his momentum.

Ten Hag is unconcerned, though he admits there is still room for improvement in his young star

“When you have such good movements and make such good combinations, good actions, then you have to finish,” he said. “I know sometimes it’s the game, it’s not your night and it’s about the form of the day, but it can change in another game.

“I think he’s in a really good run, that shows in the chances he creates. Now it’s two games he’s been a little unlucky. I say save it for the coming week.”

Opposite number Eddie Howe, meanwhile, is seeking to temper talk of European dreams for the Magpies with them lying sixth – just behind their hosts – heading into the weekend.

The former Bournemouth boss wishes to play down his side’s progress rather than shoot for the moon at this early juncture, but says he is feeling easy about their upcoming run of matches before Qatar 2022.

“It’s fine if people want to link us to those position,” he stated. “(But) we have to remain level and calm. We have a group of games coming up before the World Cup and we need to keep being successful and picking up points.

“The league is very condensed. It only takes a bad run of form to knock you off your target. I am relaxed about it and I know we need to pick up points in these tough games coming up. My focus is day to day and week to week.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Manchester United – Marcus Rashford

The England attacker – seeking a Qatar 2022 recall – has been involved in seven goals in his eight Premier League appearances against Newcastle, with four goals and three assists. Only against Arsenal has he posted more overall involvements, with eight.

Newcastle – Kieran Trippier

No player has created more chances from set plays in the Premier League this season than the England full-back, with 11. He has also played more passes into the box than any other player this term with 124, highlighting his vitality in attack to the Magpies.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Manchester United have lost just one of their last 37 home league games against Newcastle (W27 D9), a 1-0 loss in December 2013 under David Moyes.

– Newcastle have conceded more Premier League goals against Manchester United than they have against any other opponent (113), while only against Arsenal (33) have they lost more often in the competition than vs the Red Devils (32).

– Manchester United have won their last five home league games against Newcastle, scoring at least three goals each time. Only once have they had a longer run of consecutive home wins against an opponent while netting 3+ goals, doing so in six in a row against Luton between 1899 and 1957.

– Manchester United have won five of their last six Premier League games (L1), as many as they had in their previous 18. At home, they’ve lost just one of their last 12 in the Premier League (W7 D4), and are looking to pick up three consecutive wins at Old Trafford for the first time since December last season.

– Newcastle have won their last two Premier League games, scoring more goals in these matches (9) than they did in their first seven this season (8). Having beaten Fulham 4-1 and Brentford 5-1, the Magpies are looking to score 4+ goals in three consecutive league games for the first time since October 1961.