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.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories