Was that headline an exaggeration? I didn’t think so. However, yesterday’s win was achieved with minimum fuss, for most part, as a poor Newcastle side was run over by a team that had enough incentive to close the gap on league leaders, Arsenal. Arsenal were surprisingly held to a draw by Birmingham, with a last gap penalty from James McFadden. Although, it must be said that a horrible, horrible injury to Eduardo — something that, I pray, must never happen again to a footballer, ever — would have left the players in a state of shock throughout the game. Players need protection, and that’s what SAF was very concerned about a few weeks ago, bemoaning the fact that Ronaldo gets kicked about for fun and hardly gets much protection.
Back to the match report, though.
Ronaldo returned to goal scoring form by bagging yet another brace, while Rooney showed why he loves scoring against Newcastle by bagging a brace for himself. Saha topped it up by scoring a late one in stoppage time. However it was the first couple of goals that really killed things off for Newcastle. The first one, with a typical Ronaldo run down the left wing, a turn and a cross found Rooney who tapped it in on the volley. The second was an outstanding slide rule pass from Carrick that found Ronaldo, who, usually in these situations, can hardly do wrong.
After that the goals flowed. I think I’ll link you to the MOTD highlights (watch it before it gets taken down).
But more than United taking the Barcodes apart it was a case more of Newcastle being piss poor; when a midfield containing Fletcher can overrun you so badly, heaven knows what might have been had it been Anderson. And the defending, what of that! When Ronaldo can slip and still recover well enough to find himself one-on-one with the ‘keeper it shows the level of comedic defending that was on display. They seemed to let their shoulders droop so easily after going down too early, and that’s why I did feel a little sorry for their fans.
Anyway, on to player performances. I thought Rooney was coming back to his best, for quite sometime, now. Yesterday he found his shooting boots as well. His first was well taken, but his second was an absolute belter. Playing Nani on the wing was another nice move from the manager. It shows his growing faith in the Portuguese winger, and he didn’t disappoint. His crosses were again inch perfect on more than a couple of occasions. In fact, Tevez somehow contrived to miss a header from a Beckham-esque cross from Nani, from 5 yards out! Carrick has improved and his passing was more positive and advanced. It’s good to see that the lad has a bit of a fight in him, seeing the competition for places in the centre of the park. Fletcher continued in the same vein as he did against Arsenal.
It was nice to see Saha join in the action and also help himself to a goal. It is important for a striker to have a feel of the football, foremost, and then see a shot sail into the net. Those two things will certainly help the Frenchman, if he does, in fact return to more regular action.
So how important is this result. Well, we have closed the gap by three points. But not too much must be read into a performance against a team that, at best, resembled a pub team. The players will be told that a 5-1 doesn’t change things still. They will be told to prepare for the next game after a brief pat on the back.
The title race is hotting up and is very delicately poised. The title run-in, in particular, is tricky for both Arsenal and United, so this season promises to be exciting. So, lad, fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride.
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