1. That was the best United performance for months. Newcastle had lost one game at home in 2012 and today we bossed them. We started the game brilliantly, at long last, and even when Newcastle started to come back in to the game, we managed to stop them from scoring. The ten minutes leading up to half-time were vital, with Newcastle looking more confident, so to go in 2-0 up was crucial. Sir Alex Ferguson picked the right players in the right formation to get the job done and it was great to watch.
2. Both full-backs were excellent defensively and offensively today, which is not something you get to say too often. Ben Arfa, who is clearly very tricky and talented, was kept out of the game. Whilst Rafael da Silva has gone from strength to strength this season, showing himself to be a competent defender as well as being impressive on the attack, Patrice Evra has been poor. Today, whilst he was caught out of position once or twice, for the most part he was spot on. The goal was just the icing on the cake. It’s not often you see Evra dashing in to the penalty area to get his head on the end of a cross and it’s even more rare to see his attempt end up in the back of the net.
3. Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans were also solid at the back again today. After receiving criticism for being outpaced by Bale last weekend, Rio was back to his best and Evans also managed to cap his performance with a goal. It was an excellent ball in from Robin van Persie and a top header from Evans. It looked just like the kind of goal we concede all too regularly. It’s rare that we’d get two goals from corners and maybe that tells us who should be on corner taking duties. Hint: not Nani or Giggs.
4. The Man of the Match award went to Wayne Rooney and that was justified. He played deep and in Paul Scholes’ absence was dictating the pace of the game. Since returning from his injury he looks very sharp. All he is missing now is a goal. A player who rivalled him for the best on the pitch today was Tom Cleverley who looked very comfortable in our midfield. Ahead of kick-off, looking at the likes of Gutierrez, Tiote and Cabaye in Newcastle’s midfield, there was the worry we’d be overrun, as we so usually are, in the centre of the park. We got it just right today and Cleverley really looked to be enjoying himself. He scored our third goal and it was a beauty. Did he mean it? Van Persie was taking up a good position in the box so there was the suggestion he was trying to get in a cross. Who cares, it will go probably go down as our best goal of the month.
5. Amongst all the positives, Danny Welbeck will be disappointed he didn’t get his name on the scoresheet today. He just isn’t clinical enough in front of goal at times and that is incredibly frustrating. He does all the hard work, hassles and harries the opposition, gets himself in to brilliant positions, but he just seems to lose his nerve at the last minute. With just over ten minutes played he should have been on his hattrick. The first chance came after a brilliant ball from Cleverley was brought down by Van Persie, backheeled on nicely by Evans, only for Welbz to scuff his shot. Soon afterwards, he forced Harper in to losing possession and had an open goal to aim at. He wasn’t even close though. His work ethic is great and when his finishing comes, he’ll be pretty unstoppable. Patience.
6. Shinji Kagawa had a fairly anonymous game out on the right but was only filling in for Antonio Valencia, who came off the bench to show he has recovered from his injury which saw him leave training on crutches a couple of weeks ago.
7. On a different day, we might have been made to pay the price for some indecision from De Gea. He should be our first choice keeper, he is the best one we’ve got and we’ve got to be patient with him. But after a good performance midweek, he seemed more nervous again today. He’s an easy target for opponents, who love to push in to him and pull on his shirt to put him off. Too often he was caught flapping instead of just taking charge of the situation. Post match, Ferguson said he was happy with his performance though. The sooner we stop this stupid rotation, the better.
8. Being entirely honest, I’m surprised by our performance today. Not because I haven’t thought we’re capable of playing like that, but because I haven’t been able to work out why it took us weeks in the season to put in a shift like we did in the second half against Spurs. We have some fantastic players but you just start to wonder how long it’s going to take to click, and if/when it does click, whether it will be good enough and not too late to make a difference. We picked up where we left off against Spurs, it was reassuring to see us play as we did today and I hope we get to see more of the same over the coming months.
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