The Magpies host Sir Alex Ferguson's side on Saturday evening having not won in nine Premier League games and having picked up only three points in the process.
That has left them in severe danger of being dragged into the fight for top-flight survival.
He said: "Manchester United is a big game for us and we have to rise to the occasion.
"It is all about how we are mentally as well. That is a big part of it.
"For instance at Villa, instead of us being 2-1 down, we were 4-1 down. Some of the time we have not really deserved it.
"It is about how we bounce back from conceding a goal. We need to be strong mentally.
"We know we need to get better, and that comes from hard work on the training field.
"Having a game every few days, you don't really get a chance to work on it.
"During this break, we have had a chance to assess things and to see where we are going wrong."
At just 22, Milner is still a young man despite his wealth of experience at the highest level, and the events of recent weeks at St James' have taken their toll on much older men.
He said: "When results are not going your way, you lose a bit of confidence.
"We sometimes do not have the confidence to put our feet on the ball and pass it as well as we can.
"That will come with a few positive results and performances.
"At the moment, things are not going for us, but we have been working hard to put things right."