United hit three to go second
Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 3:THE MATCH was frenetic at times yet Manchester United won 3-0. There was little poise and the visitors’ Robin van Persie catching Yohan Cabaye with an elbow late in the game might have brought a second yellow card for the Dutchman had the incident not been on the blind side of the referee, Howard Webb. Feelings ran high on this occasion.
Newcastle United have had a great deal to be proud of over the past year but revealing themselves as a genuine force also means that clubs such as these victors pay particular attention to them. Defending is not a forte of Newcastle and Alex Ferguson’s men highlighted the fact. It will be exasperating for Newcastle that set-pieces were such a torment that they brought goals for the Old Trafford side.
Although the hosts were without the goalkeeper Tim Krul as well as Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor, it is unlikely that Alan Pardew will pardon the flaws for that reason. In the midst of all the uproar, it ought to be recorded that this was a vigorous and eventful occasion. United had last won at this ground in March 2009. That victory did not take place so very long ago but the fixture ought always to be hotly contested considering the scale of the clubs and the support they attract.
The visitors cut loose and that gusto is never wholly absent from United’s repertoire. There was a prospect of recovery for Newcastle early in the second half. Hopes rose, with the deficit at 2-0, when a Demba Ba header came off the bar and Papiss Cisse thought he had nodded the loose ball over the line despite the attempts of David de Gea to save. Webb was not persuaded. Goalline technology lies in the very near future but television replays suggested that Webb could not have been certain the ball had crossed the line.
For much of the time it was a lively and bold United who mostly dictated the play. There was calculation as much as instinct to the approach. It brought command and also confused opponents who must have assumed that they would relish attacking opportunities on their own ground. Although the form of Pardew’s team may have tapered off recently, Thursday’s 3-0 victory over Bordeaux was reassuring to an extent.
The Europa League cannot be at the forefront of the manager’s thoughts. He had much more to occupy him on this occasion as the early onslaught by the visitors had a decisive tone. United have a well-earned reputation for audacious attacking but it still came as minor surprise that they reduced Newcastle to near collapse while assuming a 2-0 lead by the 16th minute. That second goal typified the lack of organisation in Pardew’s side.
Wayne Rooney’s corner from the left was headed in by the full-back Patrice Evra, who claimed only his fourth goal for the club in six years of service. It was a scathing verdict on Newcastle and the disorderly display that so encouraged Ferguson’s line-up. The opener had been elementary. Having earned a corner, Van Persie delivered it from the right and Jonny Evans, free of his marker Mike Williamson, rose to send the ball beyond Steve Harper.
It was, in a way, an injustice that United should attract such attention for their efficiency at set pieces. They were worthy of deeper praise for the flair and attacking purpose with which they set the tone. Rooney, above all, relished the scope he had in deeper positions. Danny Welbeck and Van Persie were a bit more orthodox in the roles they filled yet still full of intent.
It must have been agreeable to Newcastle that they could retreat to their dressingroom for quarter of an hour. Whatever advice Pardew offered, the principal benefit for Newcastle surely lay in that break in the action. United, for their part, had scarcely lost interest in the fixture but were perhaps a little surprised by the vehemence that could so easily have cut United’s advantage.
There was no debate about United’s third goal. The dipping shot by Tom Cleverley from outside the area on the left bent across and past Harper. It was a stylish way for the midfielder to take his first Premier League goal.
Newcastle might have shuddered when a player of Paul Scholes’s calibre came off the bench in the 78th minute but at least the veteran is no longer equipped to burst through defences. That small mercy was one of the very few pieces of good news for Newcastle on a dispiriting day.