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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried