Manchester United 2 Newcastle United 0: Rooney hands baton to flourishing Ronaldo in winger's defining stage

Unleashed on a defence like he was yesterday, that repertoire of feints and step-overs lent a new hard edge of purpose, it was difficult to disagree with Sir Alex Ferguson when he says that the summer's events were "a defining moment" for Cristiano Ronaldo. If only the Manchester United manager could be quite so certain that Wayne Rooney is not suffering from some form of post-World Cup finals trauma.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored the two goals that took his side back to the top of the Premiership yesterday, but there was no doubting the main man. The Portuguese sprite on the left wing was the man who left his marker Stephen Carr reaching out helplessly for handfuls of red jersey or lashing out at his disappearing heels. He used to be the novelty act at United; now it seems that Ronaldo is content only to run the whole show.

The contrasting fortunes of the two young men upon whom United's future, and certainly this season, seems to rest is at the heart of the matter for Ferguson. Ronaldo cracked the woodwork of Newcastle United's goal three times yesterday, he traumatised Carr to the point that when the Irishman was due his second booking for fouling the winger, the referee Mike Dean appeared to take pity. As Ronaldo flourished, Rooney's game seemed to drift into irrelevance.

Certainly, Ferguson needs both on form, and at the very least you would expect Rooney to have been contesting the ownership of a promising free-kick on the edge of a besieged Newcastle area as time ticked away. Instead he rested on his haunches in exhaustion and then wandered away to allow his young comrade another tilt at finding a Newcastle goal he had terrorised all afternoon.

"Marvellous," was Ferguson's instinctive reaction to the first mention of Ronaldo's performance. "But he's been marvellous since the start of the season. Nothing fazes him; he's got such great courage."

As for the World Cup quarter-finals episode, Ferguson suggested that may have been Ronaldo's "defining moment", adding: "But I always expected him to be a great player, I always said that I could only see greatness ahead of him."

That kind of hyperbole does not suit Rooney at the moment and he is not even the one who has to endure every touch being booed by the opposition's fans. There could hardly be a better time to redeem himself than next Saturday against Macedonia when he wears an England shirt for the first time since he planted a boot between the legs of Ricardo Carvalho in Gelsenkirchen three months ago. The events of that torrid, hot afternoon seem to weigh more heavily on him than the team-mate who was his tormentor that day.

The Newcastle manager, Glenn Roeder, was realistic about the threat of Ronaldo, of whom he said: "Everyone is finding it difficult to cope with him at the moment, no matter who Manchester United are playing against."

The 21-year-old was, Roeder said, "not an attractive sight for a full-back when he's running at you - he's just so rapid". Yet four minutes until the interval Newcastle had held firm in a match that only Ronaldo illuminated.

The Newcastle manager had put his faith in that old approach so beloved of Old Trafford's visitors of a five-man midfield with one striker, in this case Shola Ameobi, battling alone in attack. In the centre of midfield Nicky Butt, now 31 and hymned by the home crowd with great feeling, tried to make an important point against his old mate Paul Scholes in midfield and, to a large extent, succeeded.

Coming to Old Trafford without a genuine left-back - never mind the absence of players like Michael Owen, Kieron Dyer and Shay Given - is no easy task but it was in games like these that Newcastle, who remain 13th, would have hoped for much more from Damien Duff. He was eclipsed by Ronaldo on the other left wing and he created the first goal.

Presented with a short corner and nowhere to go in the 41st minute, Ronaldo cut in from the left evading two tackles and halfway across the area pivoted to strike a shot with his right foot that cannoned off the inside of Steve Harper's left post. Solskjaer might call it his powers of anticipation, but he barely had to move to tuck away the opener.

The second required even less effort from the 33-year-old. It came four minutes after half-time when Nemanja Vidic's shot cannoned off him and past Harper. It struck the very same troublesome knee that had kept the Norwegian out of football for much of the past two years and these were his first Premiership goals at Old Trafford since April 2003.

Goals from Solskjaer remind this stadium of a happier, more fruitful time in their history and roused them from a torpor that had settled for much of the first half. United threatened to shatter Newcastle's fragile share of the game - Ronaldo hit the bar, then the post and Scholes chipped wide.

Harper seemed to have got a heroic hand on a Darren Fletcher shot on 71 minutes, actually it was Steven Taylor's arm that touched it wide but no penalty was forthcoming. Presumably that would have been Rooney's chance to break his duck, although given his current run of luck he may have been better off handing it to Solskjaer.

Goals: Solskjaer (41) 1-0; Solskjaer (49) 2-0.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Heinze (Evra, 31); Fletcher, Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo; Rooney, Solskjaer. Substitutes not used: Brown, Saha, O'Shea, Kuszczak (gk).

Newcastle United (4-5-1): Harper; Carr, Taylor, Moore, Ramage; Milner (N'Zogbia h-t), Parker, Butt (Martins, 63), Emre (Pattison, 70), Duff; Ameobi. Substitutes not used: Luque, Krul (gk).

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Manchester United Scholes; Newcastle United Parker, Carr, Taylor.

Man of the match: Ronaldo.

Attendance: 75,664.

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit