Man Utd continue brilliant Boxing Day record against Newcastle
Encounters between Manchester United and Newcastle United may not have the same fervour as they did back in the 1990s, when Kevin Keegan still roamed St James’ Park, but clashes between the two teams still have a habit of becoming goal fests.
This Boxing Day bonanza was no different, providing festive viewers with four, although the intriguing contest ended up being more one sided than it first suggested.
The Magpies began brightly, hinting at ruining the Red Devils’ formidable record of just one Premier League era Boxing Day defeat.
It looked set to be a game in which counter attack was key, as Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao had early chances and Newcastle threatened on the break in return.
The Tyneside team breached United’s backline and should have been awarded a penalty, but had to wait until the final phase of the match before being granted a spot kick.
Juan Mata was the culprit in the first claim, accidentally clipping Yoan Gouffran, who was free in the hosts’ area, in what could have been a game-changing moment.
Newcastle’s early swagger soon faded, but Alan Pardew can take plus points from his promising young attackers’ performances.
Ayoze Perez continued to show glimpses of real quality, despite it being far from his best outing. The nippy and nimble Spaniard’s pace was a constant nuisance to United.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Adam Armstrong, the Magpies’ youngest ever Premier League debutant, caused early issues for the hosts, and in particular Paddy McNair, but ultimately faded in the second half.
It was skipper Wayne Rooney who eventually opened scoring in the 23rd minute, as the hosts snatched the ball following an Armstrong attack.
Rooney made a lung-busting run from deep, laying the ball off to Juan Mata, before arriving just in time to tap in a low volley from Radamel Falcao.
Magic Mata was instrumental again just 14 minutes later, after Gouffran gave away the ball in his own half. The Spaniard slid the ball through to a rampant Rooney, who slotted home his second with ease.
Ashley Young’s crosses continued to probe and ask questions of the Magpies’ defence, as United put in an increasingly dominant second half display.
Old Trafford did not have to wait long after the break for a third, as Rooney picked out an exquisite pass, finding Robin van Persie’s run with pinpoint accuracy.
The flying Dutchman continued his recent renaissance by heading home emphatically to rack up his fourth in four games.
For once Louis van Gaal’s defence looked solid, despite a few early wobbles, and the Magpies did not appear to have a route back into the battle.
However, Phil Jones blotted his copybook with a rash challenge on Jack Colback in the penalty area, allowing substitute Papiss Cisse to spoil David de Gea’s chances of a clean sheet.
The Senegal striker was casual and cool as he placed his vicious spot kick in the top right hand corner, but it was far too late for the Magpies to stage a Christmas comeback.
United have won six of their last seven outings now, yet clearly save their best form for the home faithful. This is something Van Gaal will have to fine tune on their travels if the Red Devils are to challenge Chelsea and Manchester City.