Man United 2 Newcastle 0
Wayne Rooney’s early double powered Manchester United to a one-sided win over Newcastle to tighten their grip on the Premiership’s second place. He intercepted Peter Ramage’s backpass to delicately chip over a helpless Shay Given in the eighth minute. Four minutes later he held off Ramage to slot home from John O’Shea’s pass.
Newcastle improved in the second half but Rooney missed a great chance for his hat-trick, hitting the post after rounding keeper Given. Manchester United again opted to leave Ruud van Nistelrooy’s goal threat on the bench but it made little difference as they roared into a two-goal lead.
Rooney was gift-wrapped the first when he read Ramage’s backpass and exquisitely chipped Given from the corner of the penalty area. The England striker doubled the score when O’Shea swapped passes neatly with Louis Saha and fed a ball into the inside-left channel for Rooney to plant in his shot from 18 yards. Newcastle reeled under the early Manchester United onslaught and were relieved when Saha sprinted clear of a square back line – only to pull his shot wide of the target.
The home side had a catalogue of chances, with the luckless Ramage slicing a clearance across the face of his goal where Saha volleyed just wide, while Rooney fired inches over for what would have been a seven-minute hat-trick. Newcastle’s N’Zogbia and Babayaro combined to keep Ronaldo at bay.
Newcastle were unable to get any sort of foothold in midfield and as Manchester United turned on the exhibition stuff, Magpies caretaker-boss Glenn Roeder saw all the confidence built up in a six-match unbeaten run evaporate. It was two minutes before half-time when Newcastle lifted the siege but their first meaningful effort at goal was when Scott Parker’s attempted lob sailed wide.
Roeder bolstered his midfield with Lee Bowyer and Newcastle at last got a grip on the game but it was a temporary state of affairs as Rooney laid the ball into Cristiano Ronaldo’s path and it needed a great save from Given to deny him.
Rooney proved he is human as he missed a golden chance for his hat-trick. Sprinting clear he rounded Given but, with the goal at his mercy, he struck the post. It was an improved second half from Newcastle, which went some way to restoring confidence, but Manchester United carried the goal threat and, after Given denied Ji-Sung Park, Saha powered a header over and van Nistelrooy shot wide from 12 yards.
Had to be. Both Roeder and Fergie told the BBC that he deserved the matchball. Was the best player on the pitch by a mile….