James Perch

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

On 16th August, 2010, Newcastle United faced Manchester United in their first game back in the Barclays Premier League following their promotion from the Championship, with new right-back James Perch making his debut.

The Magpies lost 3-0 but they have came a long way since then; last season Alan Pardew's side finished fifth and Newcastle go into the weekend just three points behind their next opponents, who are currently third.

And Perch has been on quite a journey too. Initially, he struggled following his move from Nottingham Forest but has emerged as a vital member of Pardew's squad in recent months and looks set to start in the televised clash against the Red Devils.

Facing Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie might frighten some players but not the Mansfield-born utility man, who is likely to find himself at centre-back against Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

He's just enjoying playing regularly after admitting that he has grown as a player since that chastening beginning to his Magpies career.

"Yeah, I have," the 27-year-old told nufc.co.uk as he cast his mind back to the opening day of the 2010/11 campaign.

"It's two-and-a-bit years ago now and everyone knows I had a tough start to my Newcastle career.

"But I've put that behind me now and hopefully I can just kick on and look forward.

"I'm loving it at the minute. I'm playing quite a few games through injury or what not, with Colo (Fabricio Coloccini) and Tayls (Steven Taylor) being out, but I've just got to stay in there now and play well and hopefully I can do that."

Perch was involved in last season's 3-0 success against the Red Devils, albeit as a substitute when he replaced Yohan Cabaye in the closing stages.

And, with Newcastle and Manchester United having enjoyed a thrilling rivalry throughout the Premier League era, Perch admits that fixtures don't come much bigger than this one.

"No they don't," he said.

"They're a massive club and a great team with great players, but they've got to come to our place and hopefully can ruffle them a little bit."

Click here to buy a Newcastle United shirt with Perch's name and number on the back