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. As it was, this occasion was a departure from that trend. As if reliving the instinctive attacking of yesteryear, the visitors cut loose. That gusto, of course, is never wholly absent from United's repertoire.
There was, however, calculation more than 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. Misleading encouragement must also have served to demoralise Newcastle. Although the form of Alan Pardew's team may have tapered off recently, Thursday night's 3-0 Europa League victory over Bordeaux was reassuring to an extent.
That competition 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 a 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 left-back Patrice Evra, who thereby claimed merely his fourth goal for the club in six years of service. It was, in its way, a scathing verdict on Newcastle and the disorderly display that so encouraged Sir Alex Ferguson's lineup. 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 something of 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 the dressing room at half-time. 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.
A Demba Ba header came back off the crossbar and Papiss Cissé seemed to have nodded the loose ball over the line before David de Gea could claw it back, but Webb was not persuaded. Goalline technology may lie in the very near future, but it did not quite come soon enough for Newcastle. There was no debate about United's third goal. The 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.
There is a very great deal to admire about Newcastle and their recruitment policy has been shrewd, but they were confronted by opponents with real hunger and imagination.
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 disinclined to burst through defences. That small mercy was one of the very few pieces of good news for Newcastle in this comprehensive defeat.
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