Rafa Benitez is ready to pitch Salomon Rondon in from the start against Watford.
The on-loan striker made his comeback from injury off the bench in last weekend’s goalless draw against Southampton.
Rondon – who had been sidelined for a month with a thigh injury – was short of fitness at the St Mary’s Stadium and didn’t make an impact up front for winless Newcastle.
The 29-year-old, however, will only get match-fit by playing games – and Benitez is considering starting him against Watford.
“There are two different things,” said United manager Benitez.
“You know your fitness and your match fitness. You can be training and be fit, and when you play it’s a different thing. It’s so intense. How can you improve the match fitness? Playing games. If you’re asking me ‘is he better than last week?’. I hope so.
“Is he ready to play 90 minutes? Maybe. Maybe not. The match fitness has to improve [by] playing games.
“If you do not play him, he will not improve his match fitness.
“It’s quite difficult to find the balance.”
Newcastle signed Rondon from West Bromwich Albion in a loan swap deal in the summer which saw Dwight Gayle go the other way.
Rondon’s only goal so far came in the club’s Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest in August. Benitez has fielded summer signing Yoshinori Muto up front in Rondon’s absence.