Manchester United 2 -1 Newcastle United
It’s definitely better to be lucky than ugly, for sure. And Mike Phelan, Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant, who was extremely nervous throughout the match, up and down like a Manc jack-in-a-box, trolling the sideline and slithering all squirmy-wormy in his seat, kept his fists closed around a rosary in one had and a rabbit’s foot in the other, mumbling benedictions and plain old gorblimeys, especially when the sometimes brilliant and sometimes hapless Tom Cleverley had the ball. At any rate, despite a comeback in the second half from Alan Pardew’s boys, Manchester United held on to battle past Newcastle United to earn a Capital One Cup fourth round tie at Chelsea.
The good news at the beginning of the game was the return of both Wayne Rooney, after sustaining a nasty cut to the bicep against Fulham a month ago, and Darren Fletcher , who was captain for his first start in ten months. Both performed well, especially Wazza, who floated gleefully around the midfield;d, spraying accurate passes and distracting the Magpie midfield, which clearly feared that he might burst into a marauding run throughout the match. Taking turns behind United’s kid defense featuring, Michael Keane and Ryan Wootton at center back and Marnik Vermijl and Alex Büttner as full backs, United looked happy and adaptable. Yet, although they were definitely dominant throughout the first half, Wootton and Keane suddenly fell into an abyss of panic as soon as striker Papiss Cisse entered the fray in the second .
Most impressive for Newcastle in a first half where they were beaten repeatedly to the ball by a speedier red devils team was keeper Rob Elliot who saved a superb effort by Anderson and forced Cleverley to shoot from awkward angles at least four times. at the end of a disappointing first half, however. But even the lithe, determined Elliott was given no chance after the Brazilian midfielder scooped up a Fletcher pass and fired an exquisitely curved left-footer which somehow squeezed its way between four defenders before finding the net in the 44th minute.
Having missed two sitters, both set up by Welbeck early in the second half, Cleverley was clearly miffed at hearing the fans boo him. He had the last laugh n the 57th minute, however, as Welbeck once again fed the 23-year-old Yorkshireman, he was calmly able to slot in number two from the edge of the penalty area.
Then, directly upon the entry into the game of Cisse and Shane Ferguson in the 61st minute, the winger flew by a slack Vermijl, firing in a perfect cross which the Senegalese striker casually nodded past a stranded David De Gea. into the net. United wobbled more a little after Cissé’s goal. Minutes later, with United’s defense still in a state of shock, Cisse missed getting the equalizer by inches after attempting a spectacular scissors-kick. Then with both Ferguson and Phelan on their feet screaming from the sidelines, United’s back line must have felt terribly unnerved as both Gosling and Shola Ameobi had good efforts saved by De Gea.
Clearly, the slow starting Wayne Rooney will hope that his season can now start in earnest. Dazzling throughout the full 75 minutes he spent on the pitch , and truly looking content in midfield running proceedings, he was the key to a sixth consecutive victory for United. Having rested Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, Ferguson will clearly have food for thought concerning Tottenham Hotspur’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday, not only as far as who plays up front, but also whether Scholes should start in the middle. Considering Spurs’midfield, which is both technically accomplished and apt to play the kind of action-packed run-and-gun midfield that hurt United so badly in their first match of the season at Goodison Park, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gaffer chose to throw the dice and start with Anderson, Cleverley and Rooney