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Options available for Bruce ahead of Red Devils clash

Written by Rory Mitchinson

Steve Bruce has revealed he will have practically a whole squad to choose from when Newcastle United welcome Manchester United to St. James’ Park on Sunday.

Only long-term absentee Florian Lejeune, wide-man Matt Ritchie and the suspended Isaac Hayden are definitely out of contention for the Premier League clash, with Jonjo Shelvey available following a hamstring injury and Jetro Willems ready to feature after overcoming a knee problem.

In addition, frontman Dwight Gayle – who hasn’t figured in a competitive game for Newcastle since May 2018 – is also on the cusp of a return.

“We’ve got practically everybody OK,” said Bruce. “Dwight Gayle has trained all week, so I’ll make a decision on him in the next couple of days – we’ve still got a couple of days before we play. It’s been a long time, but he went out and worked on it last week and put in a really good week with the physios in Portugal. And thankfully, he’s had no reaction to that. He’s been out for a long time, don’t get me wrong, but he’s on the training ground again.

“Lejeune has been training now for the past week to ten days. Another couple of weeks after this one, and he might be available too.”

Out of a combined 14 Premier League games, the Magpies and Manchester United have won just three times between them so far this season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Red Devils are already 12 points adrift of pacesetters Liverpool, and will arrive on Tyneside following an uninspiring stalemate against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday night.

Newcastle, meanwhile, suffered their heaviest defeat for almost four years against Leicester City on Sunday, shipping five goals on a sobering afternoon at the King Power Stadium.

Bruce acknowledged that tensions were running high in the Magpies’ dressing room on the back of the loss, but said that he was “sure” of his side serving up a better display when they return to action at St. James’ Park.

“So there should be a few words when you get beat as badly as we did,” he admitted. “You know what’s coming. The one thing you have to do is respond, and look forward to the next game to erase it. Enough has been said on it. We were disappointing on the day – very disappointing – and we had our backsides kicked. When that happens, you have to show a certain degree of pride about yourself and make sure you put it right. And we’ve got a wonderful opportunity this weekend.

“We’ve all played badly, and it’s about how you respond to it. The last couple of years, they’ve been in and around the bottom half of the league, so they’re used to responding. Maybe they haven’t been beaten as badly as they were on Sunday, but they’re used to trying to respond. That’s what the Premier League is all about; you have to accept what comes along, you have to accept that you can be beaten, and you have to try and react.

“You have to go back to basics and work hard, and I think that applies to everybody – whatever work you do. If you have a bad day, what do you do? Do you really fret about it, or do you put it to bed and say: ‘Right, I’ll do better tomorrow.’ That’s the only thing you can do. That’s the only way forward. We’ve stripped it back and gone to basics, and I’m sure we’ll see a response from the team because I know that nobody wants to play badly and nobody wants to be humiliated like we were. The reaction is the key to it.”

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