Last December, Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United side left Old Trafford with a win for the first time in 42 years. They kept their opponents at arms length for the full 90 minutes, with Yohan Cabaye’s second half strike the difference. Funny how things can change in a year.
Not that Pardew will see the funny side of it, of course. Despite a useful start with the likes of Ayoze Perez terrorising the home side’s backline with pace and quick feet, Newcastle were simply swept aside this afternoon. Louis van Gaal seems the type who willview this result and still wince slightly a lost clean sheet, Papiss Cisse providing a late consolation through a penalty, but he must surely have enjoyed the gleeful way in which his forwards tore into their opponents. Newcastle, on the back of losing their last three, had no answer to United’s front four, with Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao menacing throughout. Mata’s delightful chip in to Falcao allowed the Colombian to slide a pass across Jak Alnwick’s goal to an unmarked Rooney to fire home, although the visitors could be allowed room for bitterness given the Spaniard’s clip of Yoan Gouffran in the penalty area had gone unnoticed minutes before.
Problem was that United’s forwards were in a far less generous mood when presented with opportunities, and were out-working their counterparts to boot. Rooney’s second came as a direct consequence of a clean sliding challenge from Falcao, with Phil Jones, seemingly encouraged to burst forward on any occasion feeding Mata before Rooney provided a low finish when clean through on Alnwick again. It wasn’t as if Pardew’s men were acting as generous guests, either; they were unable to keep up with United’s passing and movement, let alone their delivery.
The club’s captain rounded off a superb afternoon’s work with a beautiful hanging cross for Van Persie to nod home shortly after the second half had begun, leaving United to essentially coast for the remaining half hour. In truth, Newcastle offered little of the guts nor guile they had shown here twelve months ago, and were well beaten at two goals down. But with a date at White Hart Lane under two days away, Van Gaal could perhaps forgive his charges for not continuing to turn the screw. An easy victory that could have ended with a far graver result for the visiting team was as close to a thoughtful Christmas gift for all concerned that United wished to muster, and after last weekend’s slip at Villa Park, they look to be on target to finish a difficult year strongly.