Newcastle are being found out this season, claims Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

United manager believes that Boxing Day opponents have lost element of surprise from last term

Sir Alex Ferguson's players were put to the sword by Newcastle United at the turn of this year in a fashion which suggested, in a very real way, that there would be no permanence about their grip on British football. It was not so much the 3-0 New Year scoreline on Tyneside as the desperate manner of defeat, five days after humiliation by Blackburn Rovers on Ferguson's 70th birthday.

A year being such a long time in football and Ferguson being Ferguson, the two sides stand 23 points apart ahead of their clash tomorrow at Old Trafford, a stadium where Newcastle have not won since their 2-0 victory in February 1972. The United manager reflected ahead of the game that Alan Pardew's side simply are not the surprise package they were when Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba burst onto the Premier League scene last season.

"The new players they brought in caught us all by surprise," Ferguson said. "We didn't really know a lot about them. I knew about Ba, of course, but I didn't know anything about Cabaye or [Papiss] Cissé to be honest with you. They had fantastic seasons. Second time round, clubs are starting to analyse them a bit differently."

Injuries are also a factor, with Cabaye and Cheikh Tioté out until next year. "He's had one or two important players injured and that does make a difference when you've not got a squad as strong as the likes of ourselves or City or Chelsea," Ferguson said of Pardew, whose 14th placed side are only five points off the relegation places. "I'm not entirely surprised, although I am surprised they are so low down the table."

The draw at Swansea on Sunday reduced United's lead at the top of the table to four points from the previous weekend but in Wayne Rooney they have a player needing to make up for arguably his worst game of the season, in South Wales.

"Yes, to be honest [it wasn't one of my best days] and I could feel it on the pitch," the England forward said. "Some days you have an off day I could feel that out there on the pitch and you know I have no problems with getting substituted because it was not one of my best games."

It was an honest assessment from a player whose Boxing Day night out with Tom Cleverley and Jonny Evans last year ended with him arriving at Carrington in state which left him unfit to train, in the opinion of his manager – who subsequently hit him with a £200,000 fine and dropped him. "Of course, the thing about football and especially over the Christmas period is that you have a game every few days," Rooney said. "The [Swansea] game has gone for me and it is certainly not one I will remember. I will just move on to the next one."

Rooney did not share his manager's fury with Swansea defender Ashley Williams, whom Ferguson implied had deliberately cleared a ball into the back of Robin van Persie's head during the second half at the Liberty Stadium. "It was one of those things," Rooney said. "The whistle had gone and the defender has gone to clear it and it has hit him in the head, so I think probably the right decision from the referee."

With a home game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday before the New Year's Day visit to Wigan Athletic, United will believe they can re-establish a six-point lead over City. "This is a great opportunity to try and make that gap even bigger. Unfortunately [at Swansea] we couldn't do that but we have two home games and hopefully we can get six points out of them," Rooney said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea