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.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people

Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
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

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London