Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United (Evans, Evra, Cleverley)
With Carrick sitting in front of the defence, it left Kagawa, Cleverley and Rooney with the freedom to move around safe in the knowledge that the defence won’t become exposed through the middle.
1. A diamond performance. Finally, Sir Alex Ferguson threw caution to the wind in the Premier League and my did we reap the rewards.
This is the formation we need to play as much as possible this season. It plays to our strengths – calling for narrow, one touch football and our team bursting at the seams with creativity. With Valencia the only winger I would want to see in a starting XI, a narrow game with overlapping fullbacks is our best option. We oozed quality against Newcastle and they simply had no answer.
The most striking success of the diamond was Rooney and Cleverley. They both had some fantastic interplay and their energy, tracking back all the time, made it hard for Newcastle to find any space. This formation does rely heavily on fitness levels being maintained as, without constant energy, it can get easily stretched by the opposition.
2. Thou shall not pass. For all the rightful criticism that our defence has had this season, they were simply superb against Newcastle. Everybody played well but special mention must go to Patrice Evra, who had his best game in a United shirt for a long time.
He had been woeful this season but really turned the screw against Newcastle. His goal was the icing on the cake but it was his positioning, energy and desire that struck me. A narrow diamond formation would fail without two marauding full backs but in Rafael and Evra, we had two superb performances.
The young Brazilian really is stamping his authority and with ten tackles between them, him and Evra were integral to Manchester United’s second clean sheet in the Premier League this season.
As for our centre backs, who knew there was a crisis? Ferdinand was every part the experienced, calm defender that we all love and didn’t put a foot wrong all game. He played his third full 90 minute match in eight days and without speaking too soon, he is as fit as he has been in years. Alongside him, Evans was equally as impressive, as was his headed goal, and our defence never looked like leaking a goal.
A real turnaround from the defence that has thwarted our great attacking football so far this season. Looks like Sir Alex has got his point across.
3. Right role for Rooney. His performance earned him massive plaudits and rightly so – Rooney was superb on Sunday. He played in front of Carrick alongside Kagawa and Cleverley and the dynamic freedom that he was granted allowed him to move about and keep finding space.
He bagged himself two assists and could so easily have scored himself but it was the manner of his performance that impressed me. You could really tell he was enjoying the freedom of the role and in this current squad, that plays right into our hands.
We were all thinking how all our attackers could fit into the same team? A simple change of formation has given us a fantastic solution. Rooney and Cleverley’s energy brought made the midfield so busy that Newcastle didn’t have time to think on the ball. We were all over them.
I think this formation and that position for Rooney are key to our successes this season. Wingers are a dying breed, and we have to make sure we don’t become stubborn and stick to simply playing it wide.
Not even a few idiot Newcastle fans pulling the plane impression mocking Munich dragged them into anything abusive – top marks
4. Superb away support. What a crowd. From the first minute to the last minute, our away fans were fantastic. I was sat right underneath them in among the Geordies but they made it feel like a home game. Newcastle’s home support didn’t have any response on the pitch and it was equally as bad in the stands.
5. The season starts now. We have had a very choppy start to this year and although we are known as the slow starters, it was different this time.
We had a leaky defence and despite being potent going forward, we were conceding goals for fun so a lot of the hard work was undone. The formation and style we played with yesterday was superb and for me, it marks the real start of the season for us.
Chelsea have been on blistering form yet are only one point ahead of us and with a double header against the Rentboys coming up soon, it is sure to be one of the defining early games of the season.
Here’s hoping the international break won’t cause us any more problems.