Challenge facing Newcastle is set out in black and white by Scholes

Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 0

This is the 16th full season in the Old Trafford career of Paul Scholes, who has been around so long that he was actually playing when Newcastle United were still serious Premier League title contenders. A lot has changed for Newcastle in that time but precious little for Scholes.

He has lived through the United eras of Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo and is still here doing what he does best. It was under Scholes' spell that Newcastle fell last night, fatally allowing the 35-year-old to dictate the play and make it look so very easy for the home side.

In the directors' box last night was Franco Baldini, Fabio Capello's lieutenant and the man who tried, during that mad night in May, to coax Scholes out of retirement for one last England swansong in South Africa. The Capello camp always maintain that Scholes agreed to do it and then changed his mind overnight. Last night Baldini was not the only one wondering what difference Scholes might have made.

For Newcastle it was a chastening return to the Premier League although no less than they deserved. When Scholes crossed the ball for Ryan Giggs to volley in his side's third with five minutes left it could have been any point in the last 15 years for United. Newcastle might have been out of the Premier League for a year but very little has changed while they were away.

The barb aimed at Wayne Rooney from the away support became audible halfway through the first half. "Where were you in Africa?" was the question, which was not, you can be sure, a polite inquiry as to how he spent his holidays.

If that is as bad as the World Cup backlash gets then Rooney will be thankful. It is hard to imagine now that six years ago, when he returned from Euro 2004 as the hottest property in English football, that it was Newcastle who made Everton the first offer for him thus forcing Manchester United to use next summer's transfer kitty to sign the striker.

Those days for Newcastle are long gone and it was the team that got them promoted from the Championship – apart from James Perch – that they fielded last night. The faces might be the same as those relegated from the Premier League last year but as a club they are much less of a force in the transfer market. And at Old Trafford there is no hiding place for a team like that.

As for Manchester United, hope springs eternal. On the bench Sir Alex Ferguson picked the strikers Federico Macheda and Javier Hernandez, the inspiration behind the sombreros in the crowd. The Newcastle fans sang "There's only one greedy bastard," in reference to Michael Owen. But Owen was not even a substitute for the home side.

Even so, Ferguson stuck with the 4-4-2 formation that he deployed against Chelsea at Wembley which meant a start for Dimitar Berbatov. The striker scored United's first goal on 33 minutes when Scholes played a neat pass inside the left-back Jose Enrique and Berbatov beat Steve Harper with a shot across him.

It was that easy for Ferguson's side who gradually turned the screw on Newcastle's five-man midfield. Joey Barton got the kind of reception that an ex-Manchester City Liverpudlian with a criminal record might expect to get at Old Trafford. Alongside Alan Smith, who was welcomed back warmly, he struggled to halt the tide.

Andy Carroll was the away team's most promising threat on the pitch. He should have scored with a free header from Barton's corner after 10 minutes. But he roughed up Nemanja Vidic in a way that few can do and he beat John O'Shea with his power and pace on the right side to put over a decent cross.

There was a gloomy inevitability for Newcastle about United's second goal four minutes before half-time. Luis Nani, a lively presence on the left, played in Patrice Evra in the box. His cross was not gathered in by Rooney but Darren Fletcher, who had a poor first half by his standards, turned on the ball and scored from close range.

It was a battle in the second half for Newcastle and one that was increasingly fought closer and closer to their own goal. Chris Hughton encouraged Kevin Nolan to push on whenever he could which meant that Newcastle only had four in midfield rather than the usual five that visiting teams deploy at Old Trafford.

As a result Scholes enjoyed the kind of freedom that invites problems for opposing teams. He picked up his regulation booking for a badly late tackle on Nolan but mostly he orchestrated the best of his team's moves.

It was Scholes' ball into Rooney on 54 minutes that the latter flicked beautifully into the path of Berbatov in the area. He really should have hit the target with the Newcastle defence behind him and only Steve Harper to beat.

When Rooney was substituted after the hour he was given the "You let your country down," treatment by the Newcastle fans. The home fans responded with their usual sentiments about the England team. This is a theme that looks likely to run and run this season.

The Mexico international Hernandez was given a rousing welcome on his Old Trafford debut and was unlucky to be marginally judged offside as he ran onto a through-ball and went round Harper. United's third from Giggs was no less than they deserved. All that was missing was a crowning goal from Scholes.

Match facts

Manchester United 4-4-2: Van der Sar; O'Shea, Vidic, J Evans, Evra (R Da Silva, 87); Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Nani (Giggs, 71); Berbatov, Rooney (Hernandez, 63). Substitutes not used: Smalling, Carrick, Macheda, Kuszczak (gk).

Booked Scholes, Fletcher

Newcastle United 4-4-1-1: Harper; Perch, Williamson, Coloccini, Enrique; Routledge, Smith, Barton, Gutierrez (Xisco, 80); Nolan (Ameobi, 71); Carroll. Substitutes not used: Taylor, Krul (gk), Vuckic, Ranger, Tavernier.

Booked Barton, Perch

Man of the match Scholes.

Referee C Foy

Attendance 75,221

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie