James Lawton: Forget all the talk about the theatre of dwindling dreams

What a welcome back for Newcastle, to the second division of the Premier League. It was the same message, if not quite as brutally delivered in the opening pleasantries as the one that Chelsea handed to West Bromwich two days earlier, but for a wider audience the meaning was about as equivocal as a perfectly delivered one-two combination.

United may still be afflicted by civil war waged from the terraces, and Wayne Rooney spent another phase of a suddenly besieged career striving unsuccessfully to score his first goal since last March, but the idea that anyone has a more realistic chance of dislodging the champions was rendered somewhat bizarre soon enough.

First Dimitar Berbatov then Darren Fletcher delivered formal notices of another season of serious intent and by the time Rooney was replaced by the young Mexican torero of the penalty area, Javier Hernandez, United's low-key role in the summer market seemed less like hard times than a proper understanding of available resources.

Against this level of opposition, good-hearted though it was in an opening burst which saw Andy Carroll squander a free header when he climbed up to meet a corner from Joey Barton, United had both talent and aggression to burn. From time to time they turned it on Newcastle with withering effect, and no one did this more persistently than Paul Scholes.

In his mid-thirties, he explained all over again why Sir Alex Ferguson is so reluctant to consign him to the past and why Fabio Capello had so much reason to regret his failure to talk him into a role that might just have made England's World Cup something less of a misadventure.

Scholes certainly made a massive contribution to United's swift reassurance to their fans that they were indeed in position to stay on the heels and maybe even supplant the champions they got the better of so impressively at Wembley in the Community Shield.

These are the earliest days and the merest of hints, of course, but some of them were seriously persuasive.

But if Scholes applied vital influence in the crucial middle phase of the game, there was no shortage of evidence that United come into the new season with some players plainly hell-bent on some serious reconstruction of wilting reputations.

No one occupies this category more ferociously, of course, than Rooney and though frustration was etched into every corner of his face when he was replaced by Hernandez, it was still true that there were moments when he seemed just an inch or two away from some extraordinary release. For Berbatov, a man locked into an even longer nightmare at the dawn of his season, knew some sweet deliverance at Wembley.

Last night he scored one goal of fine conviction and promised a handful more before Ryan Giggs came on to deepen still more the sense of well-being that was now firmly embedded at Old Trafford.

Ferguson swore that Berbatov would one day justify the vast faith he provoked in that desperate swoop on White Hart Lane when he was seen as the final piece in a devastating machine. He has much more to do before beginning to justify such a projection but last night it seemed reasonable to presume that we had the beginnings of some new weighty self-belief.

United, as a team, also have much work to do to reclaim the high ground they surrendered to Chelsea last spring, but here they made a start that was filled with a sense of regained ambition. True authority may take a little longer to acquire, but there was a powerful sense that Old Trafford is not necessarily a place of dwindling dreams. An old one came roaring back to life.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
i100
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
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

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution