De Gea 6 He made one fantastic save but it happened right after he came for a cross and failed to get to it. He came out for two other crosses that he couldn’t reach, luckily none of those balls resulted in goals. Other than that he barely had a save to make, nearly all of Newcastle’s shots were off target.
Evra 9 His best game in years. What a masterful performance from the Frenchman, he led the team with five tackles and four interceptions as well as scoring a beautiful headed goal. His run for the goal was superb as he stole across the front of his marker and from there had a free header. He was constantly getting on the ball and provided the width that the midfield diamond requires from a full back.
Ferdinand 7 Newcastle created some decent chances but the centre backs both kept them from getting those shots from a good position inside the box. Considering how imposing Cisse and Ba can be, it’s quite an accomplishment to hold them scoreless and while Rio won’t make the headlines, he’s played three games in eight days without showing any signs of fatigue. He completed all of his thirty-three passes, many of which were played long.
Evans 8 The opening goal is always the most important, forcing the other team to open up and attack and so the powerful headed goal by Evans was absolutely crucial to our win. But he also played fantastic in defence and for all the pace and power of the Newcastle attack they were never allowed a run into the box that caused any trouble.
Rafael 8 With all the strong performances it’s easy to miss his contribution but only Carrick, Cleverley and Rooney had more passes in this game. His efficiency wasn’t quite as good as those three at 80%, but he was also taking chances down the right and crossing under pressure. He did a fantastic job of shutting out Hatem Ben Arfa and tied Evra for the lead in tackles with five. I think it’s safe to say he’s cemented his place as our right back.
Carrick 8 He quietly lead the team in passes and completed a very healthy 86%. His short was good but his long passing was excellent. Carrick anchored the midfield, allowing him to start our attacks and offer defensive support at the edge of the box.
Cleverley 8 He scored what will surely be a goal of the season candidate and I’m sure he’ll want to let Gary Neville know it wasn’t an attempted cross that happened into the top corner. He was second to Carrick in passes completed with an even better efficiency rate. His ability to find space and link up play was essential to our midfield diamond formation and his endless running helped shut down the Newcastle attack.
Kagawa 7 Some of his one-touch passing was fantastic and he seemed very comfortable as part of the diamond midfield. He didn’t get into the same sort of attacking positions we’ve been seeing him in so he didn’t have a single shot but he was always on the move, able to create space to receive the ball and make a pass before the defence swarmed.
Rooney 9 He gets the assist for Cleverley’s wonder goal as well as for his corner kick for Evra’s header. He almost scored himself from a first half free kick that Harper was barely able to get a hand do. But the save brought Rooney another chance and he delivered the ball on a plate for Evra, leaving Rooney’s fingerprints all over this game. He was constantly on the ball, with three central midfielders behind him he was allowed a free role from his position at the top of the midfield diamond. For me, this formation is all about getting the most from Rooney.
Welbeck 7 Had he brought his shooting boots he could have had two goals himself. The back-heel from Van Persie in the first minutes of the game was particularly inviting and he really should have scored from that close range. But his passing rate was excellent and he provided his fantastic defensive tenacity by winning a few tackles. It’s his link up ability that gives him the edge over Chicharito in a game like this and his one-touch passing ability was very conductive to our possession tactics.
van Persie 8 It was his beautifully curled corner kick that lead to the crucial opener by Evans. It’s a hard choice whether to let Van Persie take those corners or to have him in the box to score from them but it looks like we can’t lose either way. His back-heel to Welbeck was genius and deserved an assist and he did a great job providing others with scoring chances. His link up play was much improved – he looked more comfortable taking part in the build up play and he and Rooney seem to have a strong connection.
Valencia 6 He wasn’t able to run through the defence like he often does but he had a solid contribution. He passed the ball well and provided some width.
Scholes 7 In his short time on the field he completed twelve of thirteen passes as well as both his long balls. He helped us calm the game down at the end and exert a bit more control as Newcastle was finding some attacking space.
Giggs 5 Barely had time to warm up after coming on in the 87th minute.
We started the game absolutely on fire, Newcastle could barely get a touch on the ball as our one-touch passing kept the ball constantly moving. For the first 20 minutes it was pure domination and by then we were up by two goals from two corners. From there on the teams just about split possession but our defensive pressure, well supported by our midfield, never gave Newcastle the space or time to create a clear change. Besides his goal line clearance, De Gea never touched the ball thanks to the constant vigilance of Rio and Evans.
Rooney was our best performer yesterday as he was able to roam the field freely in search of the open spaces. Some of our passing was fantastic and with all their speed and strength, we left Newcastle frustrated. Carrick, Evra and Rafael did very well in starting attacks from the back and Cleverley, Kagawa and Rooney were constantly available ahead of them. Instead of rushing a through pass we moved the ball back and around defenders, showing impressive patience and vision. I hope we see a lot more of the midfield diamond.