Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 5: Ferguson basks in brilliant light of shining stars

Some day Sir Alex Ferguson will get the credit he deserves. Perhaps it will be when he is gone from Manchester United. A result as comprehensive as this inevitably provoked another outbreak of sneering at Newcastle United and Kevin Keegan, but that should not be allowed to obscure the controlled swirl of the champions' attacking on Saturday night and Ferguson's primary role in assembling both the personnel involved and instilling in them a philosophy that embraces risk and beauty with the overlooked genius of common-sense defending.

Across three competitions in eight days, the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League, United re-established their authority following the home league defeat by Manchester City on the weekend of the Munich anniversary. That turned out to be an emotional wobble. And City did not oblige as Newcastle did at St James' Park.

"We can say that this week was our week," said a satisfied Carlos Queiroz, Ferguson's assistant. Ultimately United may win nothing this season, though that feels unlikely, but what they continue to represent under Ferguson is to be applauded.

Keegan came up with a brilliantly simple tribute: "They're full of football." Keegan applied that to Arsenal too and both main title contenders are coming to the delivery end of a seven-month gestation period. "The great news is that it's real football teams that are winning. No one can complain and say they're negative. That was a very attacking side we played tonight, with a bench to die for."

John O'Shea, Anderson, Paul Scholes and Louis Saha were the outfield four in the dugout. Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves were elsewhere, as were impressive young bucks such as Danny Simpson and Jonny Evans.

Mikaël Silvestre cannot be forgotten. It is a squad of talent, variety, experience and youth, and when they step on the pitch there is also, generally, the courage of their conviction.

In that they are in Ferguson's image. A lot of attention fell on the rubble around Keegan's ankles just six weeks into the job, but it is worth recalling the state of Old Trafford when Ferguson walked in over 21 years ago. With United 19th in the table, the previous home game, the last under Ron Atkinson, was watched by 37,000, some 20,000 short of capacity. Only an extra 5,000 paid to witness Ferguson's first home game – a 1-0 win over QPR. Those were the days.

There had been no league title for 19 years then, but there have been nine from 1992 and there could be a 10th in May. Yet Ferguson is not feted as some national treasure in the way that for instance, Sir Bobby Robson, who won much less, is. Ferguson has too many spikes to be cuddled – his criticism of FC United is not agreeable – but appreciation of his work should not be dulled by the sneer.

It can be argued that buying Wayne Rooney for £30m-odd is no wonder-stroke, but big signings have backfired before and Rooney was exceptional in his skill and endeavour here. He is not regressing.

His 25th-minute opener quelled any doubt that Arsenal's dropped points at Birmingham would not be exploited. Newcastle had displayed some of the self-belief Keegan is so insistent about prior to that, but Cristiano Ronaldo had begun to find his stride.

Until Ronaldo and Rooney overcome a Milan or Real Madrid the highest acclaim will feel premature, but nights like this will keep them in a smooth groove. Newcastle's defence invited derision when Ronaldo converted the second from Michael Carrick's pass just before half-time, but Steven Taylor and Habib Beye were left exposed by their midfield. Joey Barton is yet to play well in a black and white shirt. Damien Duff, also struggling, might have made it 2-1 but Edwin van der Sar blocked and Ronaldo was gifted a third – his 21st league goal of the season. Abdoulaye Faye pulled one back but Rooney bent in a sweet fourth and Louis Saha added a late fifth.

It was emphatic and enlightening and it left Newcastle dry-mouthed, staring at relegation. It left Rooney, Ronaldo and Ferguson licking their lips.

Goals: Rooney (25) 0-1; Ronaldo (45) 0-2; Ronaldo (56) 0-3; Faye (79) 1-3; Rooney (80) 1-4; Saha (90) 1-5.

Newcastle United (4-4-2) Given (Harper, h-t); Beye, Taylor, Faye, N'Zogbia;

Milner (Geremi, 84), Barton (Carroll, 61), Butt, Duff; Owen, Smith. Substitutes not used: Cacapa, Ameobi.

Manchester United (4-4-2) Van der Sar; Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic (Scholes, 74), Evra (O'Shea, h-t); Ronaldo (Saha, 67), Fletcher, Carrick, Nani; Tevez, Rooney. Substitutes not used: Kuszcak (gk), Anderson.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Newcastle United Faye, N'Zogbia, Butt, Owen.

Man of the match: Rooney.

Attendance: 52,291.

Anticlimax of King Kevin

Under Kevin Keegan Newcastle have played six, lost four and drawn two:

* 19 Jan: Premier League

Bolton (h) drew 0-0

* 26 Jan: FA Cup fourth rd

Arsenal (a) lost 3-0

* 29 Jan: Premier League

Arsenal (a) lost 3-0

* 3 Feb: Premier League

Middlesbrough (h) drew 1-1

* 9 Feb: Premier League

Aston Villa (a) lost 4-1

* 23 Feb: Premier League

Man Utd (h) lost 5-1

PROMOTED VIDEO
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
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz