KAZENGA LuaLua is on standby to make his first Premier League appearance of the season against Portsmouth following his match-winning performance in the FA Youth Cup.
LuaLua the cousin of former United striker Lomana, scored twice for the Academy side – who will play QPR in the next round – against Oldham Athletic in midweek and manager Joe Kinnear is tempted to draft him into the side because of the squad’s injury problems.
Kinnear has been impressed with the teenager, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Wednesday, and feels he could be ready to step up to senior level having played for both the Academy and Reserve sides this season.
Although Danny Guthrie and Nicky Butt are back in training following back and hamstring troubles, they will both have fitness tests this morning before the team travel down to the south coast ahead of Sunday’s clash with Pompey.
If either fail to make it, LuaLua will make the trip as the Magpies are short on options in the centre of midfield and were forced to play the entire second half against Stoke City last weekend without a specialist in that position.
Although the youngster is normally used in a wide attacking positions, he can play centrally and his speed and quick feet would bring something different to the side, even if Kinnear only uses him as a substitute at Fratton Park.
United’s injury problems are a major headache for Kinnear, who knows his side have not won an away game in the Premier League since the 4-1 destruction of Tottenham back in March.
However, it is in such circumstances that young players can get the chance to shine and LuaLua has shown enough glimpses of quality to suggest he has the ability to make the step up to senior level.
LuaLua, who along with Nile Ranger has been the star of the Academy side
which has won nine games on the trot, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo before claiming asylum in Britain.
He has already made four substitute appearances for the Magpies – making his debut against Stoke City in last season’s FA Cup – under former managers Sam Allardyce and Kevin Keegan and is desperate for a first-team chance.
That opportunity may already have arrived this season if he had not injured himself in the summer playing tennis before picking up another ankle problem playing for United in a pre-season friendly against Newcastle Blue Star.
However, United’s hopes of signing Kinnear’s first-choice left-back during the January transfer window appear to be doomed after John Arne Riise insisted he did not want to leave Roma.
Kinnear has admitted United have made an enquiry about the former Liverpool’s defender’s availability, but they will have to look elsewhere, with Hearts’ David Obua and Independiente’s Lucas Mareque also possible targets.
Riise has failed to hold down a regular place in the Roma side, but he is adamant he wants to stay and fight for his place rather than return to England.
He said: “I will stay here in Rome and win. Things are getting better for me, the team and my family.”
Meanwhile, Kinnear has declared he will do everything he can to ensure Steve Harper is given a new contract at St James’s Park.
Harper is one of a number of Newcastle players, including Nicky Butt, Michael Owen and Mark Viduka, who will be able to talk to rival clubs in a fortnight’s time ahead of a Bosman-style free transfer at the end of the season.
“Harps has a contract that needs to be sorted out,” said Kinnear. “Steve would probably be playing somewhere else, and who is to say he would not be the England goalkeeper? I’m obviously aware of that, but I wouldn’t like to lose him, that’s for sure.
“They (Shay Given and Harper) are both very talented goalkeepers. That’s one position I can go to bed at night and not worry about, because we have got two world-class goalkeepers. I would love to keep it that way.”
PORTSMOUTH manager Tony Adams has refuted reports striker David Nugent is considering a move to Everton.
Nugent, 23, has endured a torrid time since joining from Preston in July 2007 with a series of injuries limiting his opportunities to live up to his £7million transfer fee.
“Everton have not contacted us and he hasn’t said he wants to go,” said Adams.
“He supported Everton as a boy and sometimes the press put two and two together and come up with five. At the moment chances are limited for him but he’s reacting really well in training.”