NEWCASTLE’S battles with Manchester United were the most hotly anticipated Premier League clashes of the mid-90s.
But Toon icon Les Ferdinand admits the fixture is now a far cry from when it sent shock waves through Tyneside.
Ferdinand and Newcastle finished second in successive seasons to United — with Kevin Keegan’s ‘I will love it’ rant and the Toon’s 5-0 win in 1996 going down in Prem folklore.
But Ferdinand said: “Both teams have moved on from where they were. Man United were THE team of the 90s but since then Man City and Chelsea have come into the fray and Liverpool are back.
“It’s two totally different teams now.
“Newcastle, unfortunately, have gone the other way in terms of being the team that was challenging for the title or up there at the top.”
The Magpies go into tomorrow’s Old Trafford clash 21 points behind their former title rivals and fearing the drop.
Ex-England striker Ferdinand added: “Since that team that finished second in ’96 and ’97, they have not been the same team.
“You had two teams that were vying for the title at the time, Man United and Newcastle . . . I know United are up there and doing well under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.”
Despite Newcastle sitting just six points above the relegation zone, Ferdinand believes manager Steve Bruce is doing a good job on a limited budget amid uncertainty over the club’s ownership.
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Ferdy, 54, now QPR’s director of football, said: “Steve has had a difficult time and up until the recent results they were having a tough time.
“But if I look at the way this season has gone, every single team in the Premier League has had a tough time.
“When Steve took over, he had a squad of players that, had he been able to chose, he probably wouldn’t have chosen all of them.
“Steve has made some amendments in recent times, he bought a couple of players last summer and they need time to gel.”
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