When making your return to the Premier League one of the obvious places you don’t want to go to is Old Trafford, sadly, that is what befell upon Newcastle United last night as they took on Manchester United at the Theatre of Dreams. After Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of another promoted side, West Brom on Saturday, the signs immediately didn’t look good for the Magpies.
However, it was Newcastle who made the brighter start as they lined-up in their familiar 4-5-1 formation with their new no.9 Andy Carroll spearheading the attack and it was the Englishman who had arguably their best chance of the first-half and indeed the game in the 10th minute. Carroll broke from his marker and had a free-header from a corner but failed to get it on target as it breezed to the right and wide of the Manchester United goal. Carroll had a second chance in the 16th minute, but his shot from distance forced a routine save from Edwin Van der Sar.
From there the Red Devils began to take control of the game, dominating possession and forcing Newcastle to retreat into their own half. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side found Newcastle’s weakness and began to exploit it – that was down the right side and in particular the Magpies right-back, making his Premier League debut James Perch. As United began to pressurise Newcastle, they also began to create chances but clear cut opportunities for strikes on goal seemed to be at a premium. Wayne Rooney looked particularly languid skying an effort in the 30th minute as well as smashing a free-kick at the Newcastle wall.
It was Rooney’s partner in crime – Dimitar Berbatov who opened the scoring for United, his second goal of the season, having already scored in the season-opener – the Community Shield against Chelsea. Criminal defending from Newcastle with Jonas failing to clear the ball – gets dispossessed by Valencia who passes the ball to Scholes who in turn threads the Bulgaria through, beating the offside trap before knocking it past Harper in the Newcastle goal.
Worse was to come for the Magpies as the Red Devils made it 2-0 a couple of minutes before the break. This time, targeting the weakness of Newcastle down that right-hand side, Nani and Evra combining to pass it into the box to Rooney who gets knotted up in himself could not make the turn – ball falls to Darren Fletcher who swivels and slots it home from six-yards giving United a comfortable leaving going into half-time.
As we began the second-45, Manchester United’s domination was clear, Berbatov and Rooney going close on a couple of occasions. However, the latter, who still looks out of sorts, having now not scored in 1064 for both Manchester United and England, was substituted in the 62nd minute for Javier Hernandez or Chicarito as it says on his shirt, to make his Premier League debut. Chris Houghton also felt the need to change tact, bringing on Shola Ameobi for captain, Kevin Nolan switching to a 4-4-2 formation; to little effect might I add.
At 2-0 was it job done for United? Not in the slightest, Ryan Giggs who came on in place of Nani, combined with fellow golden-oldie, Paul Scholes who gave yet another man of the match performance for United, it was Scholes who crossed the ball over to the left of the area to Giggs, who hit a sweet left-footed volley into the bottom right-corner of Steve Harper’s net to put the game to bed, albeit it had already been done in the first-half.
Giggs now has the honour of having scored in every one of his 21 seasons in top-flight football for Manchester United. While Scholes who gave another ageless performance conducting the midfield orchestra, attempted 104 passes – the most of the whole weekend of Premier League action, was simply outstanding.
In truth, it was a deserved result for the Red Devils as Newcastle didn’t pose much of an attacking threat throughout the game, but, they have arrived back where they should be in the Premier League. Realistically, they’ll be looking to improve week in week out, sadly though, there could be more results like this during the season.