Rafael Benitez
Rafael Benitez will be without four players for Saturday's trip to Manchester United LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images

Newcastle United will be without four players for Saturday's (18 November) tough Premier League match against Manchester United, with Mikel Merino, Jamaal Lascelles, Christian Atsu and Paul Dummett all sidelined.

The newly-promoted Magpies, who have now slipped into the bottom half of the table after a promising start to their first season back in the top-flight, visit Old Trafford in their first outing since the international break looking to recover from successive 1-0 defeats and a disappointing run of form that has seen them claim just five points from a possible 18.

"Paul Dummett is getting closer," manager Rafael Benitez told reporters at his pre-match press conference on Friday. "Mikel Merino has been training with a member of our staff in Spain.

"Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu are injured and will not be available. Atsu will be out a couple of weeks, we'll see next week how Lascelles feels."

Merino missed each of those back-to-back losses at the hands of Burnley and Bournemouth due to a lower back injury sustained after he came off the bench to net a dramatic late winner against Crystal Palace at St James' Park on 21 October.

Benitez stressed that the 21-year-old, signed on a permanent deal from Borussia Dortmund in October just three months into a season-long loan spell, would be absent for at least a fortnight and he was subsequently ruled out of Spain's Under-21 European Championship qualifiers against Iceland and Slovakia.

Despite fears in Spain that Merino could be out for up to two months, Benitez insisted at last week's Newcastle United Foundation charity dinner that he was "getting better a little bit more every day" and that the total length of his absence would depend on how he responds to treatment. The player returned to Tyneside on Friday [17 November] after an earlier video showed him engaging in some light ball work at the training facilities of former club Osasuna.

Captain Lascelles was always considered a doubt to face United after he was substituted 10 minutes into the second half against Bournemouth after failing to shake off an ankle knock suffered before the break. He was seen leaving the stadium with crutches and his lower left leg encased in a protective boot.

Atsu was also said to have "felt something" before being replaced late on in that same game, although appeared to recover quickly as he joined up with Ghana for their final dead-rubber 2018 World Cup qualifying tie against Egypt.

However, he ended up missing the 1-1 draw in Cape Coast after pulling out of a training session and being diagnosed with a thigh muscle tear.

Dummett, meanwhile, has not played a single minute of competitive football since limping off after just seven minutes of a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur on opening weekend due to a hamstring injury. The versatile homegrown defender has now missed three months of action and is expected to regain match fitness with the Under-23s.

While that quartet will miss out, Benitez did confirm that Rob Elliot and Ciaran Clark were both available to play against United. The duo were part of the Republic of Ireland squad that saw their dreams of a first World Cup berth in 16 years shattered by Christian Eriksen and Denmark in Dublin on Tuesday, but Elliot withdrew ahead of the second leg due to a family bereavement.