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.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Sport
sport
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
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

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents