Pardew challenges Toon to tame United
Alan Pardew has challenged Newcastle to prove they are the best of the rest as they attempt to tame Premier League champions Manchester United.
Alex Ferguson and his players head for Tyneside tonight having seen title rivals Manchester City fail to make them pay for their shock home defeat by Blackburn on Saturday by themselves slipping up at Sunderland 24 hours later.
Pardew knows a United starting line-up which seems certain to be boosted by the return of Wayne Rooney and could also include Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling, will present the toughest of tests as his side also look to bounce back from Friday night's 3-1 reverse at Liverpool.
The Magpies have won only one of their last eight league games, a run which has seen them play both Manchester clubs and the Merseysiders away and Chelsea at home, and while they remain in seventh place, their advantage over the teams immediately below them has all but evaporated.
Pardew said: "That gap was obviously going to close with the injuries and games we have had, and it has.
"But we are still there and after this particular game, we have a decent run of games, so there's again a chance to maybe put some distance between us and the chasing pack.
"But we have to prove that."
A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on November 26 was one of the better results during that difficult sequence of fixtures, albeit one which was secured with a highly contentious Demba Ba penalty.
A repeat or even better tonight would say much for the progress Newcastle have made under Pardew, although he is under no illusions as to the challenge ahead.
He said: "It would say a lot, but it's still a tough ask. They have got something to prove, and they are always dangerous like that. But so have we, so we will see what the reaction is."
The less-than-neighbourly battle for the title is being fought with City but Pardew insists that as long as United retain the trophy, they deserve every ounce of respect.
He said: "They are the champions and you have to respect that."