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Man Utd 2-1 Newcastle

26th September 2012

Wayne Rooney will hope his season now starts in earnest. On his return the forward can be pleased with a performance that dazzled ever more after the hour mark passed and he dropped into midfield to run proceedings in what ended as a sixth consecutive victory for Manchester United.

Of prime benefit will be the 75 minutes he played, easing the return of touch and awareness, with Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson conscious how a run of appearances allows his game to flow.

Now, with Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa rested from the matchday squad whether Rooney starts against Tottenham Hotspur here on Saturday is the next question as Ferguson has a full compliment of forwards available.

For the start of a competition that United exited early last year at the hands of Crystal Palace, the team news was spiced up by the inclusion of Rooney, who had not featured since suffering a gashed leg here in the 3-2 win over Fulham a month ago. In his absence United had won all four of their games, scoring 10 times and keeping two clean sheets as Rooney lined up in an XI also including Darren Fletcher, who was making a first start for nearly a year and who captained the side.

The eight-week lay off for Nemanja Vidic following knee surgery plus injuries to Chris Smalling and Phil Jones meant that Jonny Evans, who would have started, was rested for Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. Thus United’s back four had one senior start – from the left-back Alexander Büttner – and one substitute appearance – in Michael Keane at centre-back – between them.

This allowed Marnick Vermijl, a right-back, and Scott Wootton, Keane’s partner, to make their debuts, with the former creating the tie’s first chance. A sweeping cross from the Belgian’s flank found Javier Hernández, who beat Rooney to the header but could only flick the ball wide. Next up for United was Anderson. A burst that took in a return from Tom Cleverley and the holding off of Fabricio Coloccini ended with shot that forced a corner.

Rooney then beat Dan Gosling and let fly an effort that was blocked by Coloccini, before a later pass, flipped over the top to Hernàndez, was swung at and missed when his right boot should have connected.

While Ferguson had changed all his personnel from Sunday’s 2-1 win at Liverpool Alan Pardew’s stated intent to focus on the league meant the only notable names in his team were Coloccini, Shola Ameobi and Cheick Tioté, all of whom were virtually anonymous before the break.

Ameobi, playing as the No9 in Newcastle’s 4-4-1-1, rose to head the ball down to Gosling but his attempt at a left-foot volley was skied, while Gabriel Obertan had earlier made a dart down the right that was stymied. So far, Rooney’s was the kind of uneven display all returning players can have. He followed a clumsy clearance that found only his former United team-mate Obertan, with a glorious contribution the next time he received the ball.

From deep inside his territory the forward sent a 50-yard pass curving into the run of Danny Welbeck as he crossed halfway. The striker continued down the left, cut inside, then tested Robert Elliot with a rasping finger-tingler that forced another corner.

Rooney would later take a knock to the bottom of his leg in a challenge that he ran off before a rather soporific first half finally had a goal. Moments after Cleverley missed from close range, a throw-in from Rooney went to Fletcher. He passed inside to Anderson and, outmuscling Gosling, the Brazilian pinballed the finish off Elliott’s left post to make it 1-0 a minute before the interval.

That was Anderson’s first goal in the League Cup. He should have had a second within moments of the restart. A slick move was began by Rooney near his area. He laid off to the midfielder whose instant pass sliced along the left touchline into Welbeck before the Brazilian surged upfield. When the striker moved inside and picked Anderson out he failed to work Elliot from 20 yards despite being on his favoured left foot.

For Pardew, who stood throughout the evening, there was brighter stuff when the Slovak Haris Vuckic wriggled in the area and blazed the ball past David de Gea but also just too wide.

There was nothing awry with Cleverley’s radar for United’s second, which was too simple: Welbeck fed the 23-year-old and he slotted in from the edge of the penalty area.

United wobbled a little after Papiss Cissé‘s 62nd-minute goal. This arrived within seconds of the centre-forward entering as a replacement and came from a dipping cross from Shane Ferguson, who had taken the field at the same time. From the left, his ball beat De Gea and Cissé‘s header was calm. He later hit the bar – as Hernàndez had earlier – with an overhead kick.


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