St James' Park could blame Jean-Alain Boumsong for his crucial role in both goals, they could grumble about an attack without edge but they could not argue with another stunning show from Rooney, the scorer of the first goal and the creator of the second.
Both Souness's predecessors were sacked on the basis of their records in the season's first month, but while Ruud Gullit and Sir Bobby Robson failed to win in their first four matches neither, as this side have, did so without scoring a goal. The Newcastle manager did not attend the post-match press conference, but his assistant, Alan Murray, said he was confident that Souness's absence was not because of another boardroom blood-letting.
Albert Luque almost had a start that would have gone straight into St James' Park folklore but his 12th-minute goal was offside and it was not until his debut had reached its 92nd minute that he was given another chance. Before then, the mood had already been set, not least by a television shot of Roy Keane's impassive face in the tunnel, refusing, as ever, to turn and acknowledge the Newcastle captain alongside him.
Gabriel Heinze caught Alan Shearer with an elbow, Shearer evened up with a lunge at Mikael Silvestre. It was that kind of start - and Cristiano Ronaldo was the first into the book, rising from the pitch where Scott Parker had deposited him to exact revenge on the Newcastle midfielder within seconds. With Sven Goran Eriksson in the stands, Parker's busy tackles made him his side's outstanding performer.
Newcastle lost Emre to a hamstring injury just seconds after he had delicately picked his way through the away side's midfield and Kieron Dyer went to exactly the same problem. With Lee Bowyer limping after the interval, Souness had used all his substitutes before the hour. By then, however, the fight had seeped from Newcastle and the progress of Sir Alex Ferguson's team had begun to look ominous.
Ronaldo should have done better than shoot at Shay Given's legs when he was put through by a clipped pass from Ruud van Nistelrooy and he also shot over when Bowyer's mistake gifted him the ball on 39 minutes. Rooney and Rio Ferdinand did not disappear for the interval without first making long protests to the referee Howard Webb and midway through the second half Ferguson added his own voice.
But not before he saw his side go ahead through Rooney. The 19-year-old needs no help but it was given to him none the less by Boumsong, an £8.5m defender who displayed all the deftness of a forklift truck when he tried to control Edwin Van der Sar's punt on 66 minutes. When Boumsong's touch failed him, Rooney was there to rush in and smash a low shot past Given.
That had Ferguson bounding about the dug-out but he was even more exercised by the referee's decision of three minutes later. As Ronaldo sprinted on to a through ball, Stephen Carr - outpaced and out of position - locked arms with the winger and brought him down. Webb's refusal to act provoked the full range of Ferguson histrionics: flapping arms, curled lip, industrial language. The worst was yet to come.
When Van Nistelrooy ran on to a dazzling pass from Rooney on 72 minutes his touch took the ball fractionally too far ahead and when he tripped over Given, Webb rewarded him with a booking, not a penalty. It was, confirmed by replays, a poor decision.
On the bench, Ferguson simply put his head in his hands. He need not have worried because the very last word went to his Dutch striker with an 89th-minute goal made by Rooney. Operating almost in the right-back position in search of the ball, he went past Amdy Faye and down the right flank where he swept over a cross that Boumsong missed and Van Nistelrooy struck home. Three wins out of three for United, with Rooney the architect of their success.
Goals: Rooney (66) 0-1, Van Nistelrooy (89) 0-2.
Newcastle United (4-5-1): Given; Carr, Boumsong, Taylor, Babayaro; Dyer (Ameobi, 37), Emre (Jenas, 22), Parker, Bowyer (Faye, 54), Luque; Shearer. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Harper (gk).
Manchester United (4-5-1): Van der Sar; O'Shea, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze; Rooney, Scholes, Keane, Fletcher (Smith 84), Ronaldo (Ji-Sung 84); Van Nistelrooy. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Brown, Giggs.
Booked: Newcastle United Parker; Manchester United Ronaldo, Van Nistelrooy.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Man of the match: Rooney.
- More about:
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Manchester United
- Newcastle United
- Premier League
- Real Madrid
- Sir Alex Ferguson