Wayne Rooney returns but nerves hit Manchester United defence in victory over Newcastle

Manchester United 2 Newcastle United 1

Old Trafford

The ticket prices – £45 for the away fans: £20 more than any other club have charged this week – demonstrated that Manchester United always  believe they can put on some theatre.

By the end, there were rather more thrills than Sir Alex Ferguson had probably hoped for, in the severe physical examination of perhaps the youngest defence he has ever fielded. But there were also grounds for some extreme satisfaction – even if a fourth-round tie at Stamford Bridge took the edge off the night. The hard evidence of a resurgent, returning Wayne Rooney was just part of it. There were also reminders of why Ferguson has described Tom Cleverley as England’s best midfielder; 90 minutes of football for Darren Fletcher and the knowledge that the defence held on against big men like Shola Ameobi and Papiss Cissé.

Rooney, back with his right leg in strapping, did not look like a man who had been missing for a month and a day when he dropped deep as United’s creative nexus – his face as red as his shirt with the intensity of effort. There were two gorgeous first-half passes from him – one clipped 20 yards, one thumped fully 50 yards, from which first Javier Hernandez and then Danny Welbeck might have scored –

However, from his unusual vantage point in the stands Ferguson was looking for something he did not already know. Anderson told him that. The Brazilian has already been granted a few chances too many to prove himself here and in two powerful, driving runs - brushing off first Fabricio Coloccini, then Dan Gosling – we saw why he is still clinging on to an Old Trafford career. It was the second of those runs which he wrapped up with a powerful 20-yard shot, to send United ahead.

Then, if evidence were actually needed of the 24-year-old’s painful inconsistency, he ballooned over a ball laid into his path by the enterprising Welbeck in the early minutes of the first half.

The fledgling back four – with one previous senior start and one substitute’s appearance between them – was the real source of interest and Ferguson’s momentary struggle for a way of summing them up, after the match, suggests they have work to do. “They did their best,” said the manager, not exactly a garland of praise.  Fletcher was more enthusiastic: “For two young centre-halves playing against top strikers they were fantastic.” But Michael Keane, the centre-back they talk a lot about at United, was by no means unbeatable.

Ameobi hustled the 19-year-old in the air to nod down a volleyed chance which Gosling spurned early on and the neat, quick feet of Haris Vuckic dazzled him as the Slovenian danced past to shoot on 53 minutes. But Keane was calm and composed in the teeth of no ordinary offensive threat. These were grounds for promise.

That threat intensified after Cleverley atoned for a bad first half missing by curling in his first United goal just before the hour. Alan Pardew threw on two substitutes who combined to score within a minute of arriving from the bench. Shane Ferguson provided the deep, accurate cross which Keane’s 21-year-old defensive partner Scott Wootton lost the flight of, allowing Cissé to rise behind him to power home a header. Wootton was then powerless to prevent a Cissé bicycle-kick which struck the bar.

Pardew’s complaint that the referee had not really given his side enough was tame. “We were every bit as good as United,” he said. His side, while ambitious, were second best. Ryan Tunnicliffe’s father wore a big smile when his son arrived from the bench, delivering him £10,000 on the £100 bet he had placed on this outcome when his boy was nine years old.

But Ferguson’s grin was the broadest, when the night’s work of a pitch invader came to a spectacular end on the turf. This looked the smile of satisfaction – from one who knows how hurtful this tournament’s early rounds can be.

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game