For their third league match of the season, Manchester United are away from home but taking the initiative right from the kick-off here at Newcastle United and the crowd is pumped.
The Newcastle fans, the Toon Army as they’re known, are some of the best fans in the country. They love their football passionately at St James Park and expect their team to play similarly.
Quite like Manchester United in fact, who are determined to make up for a bitterly disappointing last season. Now the Red Devils are driving forward looking for an early advantage, leaving Newcastle only the occasional counter attack. Their first, in the 11th minute, sees new Spanish striker Alberto Luque, who only arrived in the North East on Thursday from Deportivo La Coruña, have a goal disallowed for offside.
This encourages Newcastle, who are starting to make a real fight of it now, but lose a little momentum when Turkish midfielder Emre takes a knock and is replaced by Jermaine Jenas.
Half an hour gone and things are starting to boil. Newcastle’s main striker and captain, former England goal man Alan Shearer seems to have taken an accidental knock from United’s Argentinian left back Gabriel Heinze. As he often does, Shearer sees red and swiftly clatters into first Silvestre and then Ronaldo. The heat is on!
United remain focussed however and keep pressing forward. The 37th minute brings a lovely flowing move ending with Ruud van Nistelrooy feeding a lovely pass to Ronaldo in the penalty area but the Portuguese winger shoots straight at Newcastle goalie Shay Given. A minute later he has another chance when Lee Bowyer attempts an insane back pass to Given and Ronaldo intercepts, but he hurries the shot and it’s wide of the target.
Newcastle get another chance when Heinze fouls Shola Ameobi on the left corner of the United penalty area. Luque takes the free kick but shoots straight at United midfielder Paul Scholes and it goes for a corner. Luque takes it but United goalie Van der Sar punches clear. This is the home team’s best spell of the match so far. They surge again in the last minute of the first half, Ameobi crossing from the left to Luque (again) lurking at the far post who tries to volley but can’t control the ball.
It’s half time and Luque has easily been the star of the show so far, he looks a great buy for Newcastle. Manchester United have been solid if not inspired and are going to have to do better in the second half.
After the break, United get the second half started looking for the first goal but get bogged down in midfield. Almost immediately there’s a flowing passing move, crossing the pitch from left to right and O’Shea whips in a great cross which Van Nistelrooy meets with a header, but poor control lets him down and the ball flies wide of goal.
Around the hour mark and still no goals, maybe Sir Alex should be thinking of bringing on Giggs? Rooney hasn’t been having much of a game but then suddenly bursts into life. Van der Sar collects a loose ball and clears it long; a million players completely miss the ball and suddenly Rooney bursts through the chaos, collects the ball off the toes of a Newcastle defender and slams it in the net! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL! One-Nil to United!
Newcastle, to their credit, don’t stop fighting but United are determined to win. In the 71st minute, Van Nistelrooy receives a forward pass from Rooney on the edge of the Toon box and is brought down by Given. Penalty! No!! The ref mistakenly thinks Ruud dived and gives him a yellow card. This cheers up both Newcastle and their fans and they keep pushing forward in search of an equalizer.
Ten minutes to go and Ronaldo skips down the right wing, feet moving like a tango dancer and completely confuses two Newcastle defenders, who haul him to the ground. The ref finally calls the foul, the first he’s given but at least the tenth Ronaldo’s received.
With a little over five minutes to go, Sir Alex tightens things up in midfield, replacing Ronaldo and Fletcher with Ji-Sung Park and Alan Smith respectively. Then, in the 91st minute, Rooney is helping out in defence, gets the ball from Van der Sar and hares off down the right wing, running the entire length of the pitch before whipping in a great cross to Van Nistelrooy who makes no mistake this time and shoots under the helpless Given. GOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL! Two-Nil United!!