Newcastle's unbelievable delight

Newcastle Utd 5 Manchester Utd 0 Peacock 13, Ginola 3, Ferdinand 62, Shearer 75 Albert 84
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The Independent Online
There will be a fog on the Tyne this morning, the fog of thousands and thousands of hangovers. They were singing until the early hours last night, in the Bigg Market, on the Quayside, and in bars and clubs all over Geordieland. The song was "Now you're gonna believe us, the Toon will be the champs".

Maybe, Kevin Keegan and Sir John Hall were not getting carried away, although the chairman clearly had to make an effort not to. There is a long way to go but Newcastle lead the Premiership by three points this morning and, just as importantly, they have broken the current champions' spell over them. It was their first league win over Manchester United in nine years and nine attempts.

And what a victory. Goals from Darren Peacock, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer and Philippe Albert condemned Manchester United to their heaviest defeat since losing 6-0 to Ipswich in 1 March 1980. It was the worst defeat Alex Ferguson has suffered in 22 years of management.

Newcastle, like Wimbledon, have now won their last seven Premiership matches. Ferdinand and Shearer have scored 18 goals between them. Almost as remarkably Pavel Srnicek has kept two successive league clean sheets.

He was excellent, the defenders in front of him, especially Peacock and Albert, outstanding. Although Manchester United had as many goal attempts as Newcastle (15), many of them were snatched efforts.

The defence was helped by a midfield which pulsed with commitment, Rob Lee had a long-awaited good game against Manchester United, Peter Beardsley was a cool head in the midfield maelstrom, and David Batty led by example. In attack Ferdinand, Shearer and Ginola pulled apart a defence which had not conceded a goal for five matches.

Newcastle took the field with Kevin Keegan's exhortation "remember the Charity Shield" [when Manchester United beat them 4-0] ringing in their ears. Just like last season they took the game to Manchester United. In March they had dominated the first half but, denied by Peter Schmeichel and drained by their efforts, they lost in the second. Yesterday their pressure bore fruit, they got the break and capitalised in style.

Thirteen minutes had gone when Shearer headed a Ginola corner to Peacock. The central defender did not get much power on it and, as it drifted across the goal-line Denis Irwin scrambled it away. The referee, Steve Dunn, looked to play on, then he looked at his assistant. He was signalling a goal and Dunn assented.

Television pictures, slowed down and viewed over and over again, could barely tell if he was correct but it looked, just, as if it was the right decision. If so it was a very good, but essentially instinctive, one.

Manchester United were less convinced, Schmeichel being booked in the protests. The incident appeared to unsettle them and, when Karel Poborsky failed to gain a penalty when he tumbled theatrically over his countryman Srnicek 13 minutes later their mood darkened further.

Four minutes later it was grimmer still. Newcastle worked the ball across the edge of the box to Ginola and in a flickering of a Gallic eye he had turned and lashed a shot, right-footed, into the far corner of the net.

Manchester United became flustered. Gary Pallister, so commanding in midweek, started losing possession, Schmeichel wasted his kicks, Nicky Butt and Batty had a "handbags at five paces" set-to.

Newcastle's momentum was interrupted by the break and, for 15 minutes, their supporters stopped celebrating as their nerves grew. Anxiety increased when, after Srnicek had denied Poborsky and Peacock blocked a Cantona shot, Ferdinand missed the easiest chance of the afternoon.

The black-and-white multitudes need not have worried. A minute later Shearer crossed from the right and Ferdinand headed in off the bar. The champions continued to press for a reply but this was Newcastle's afternoon. Shearer tapped in after Schmeichel had twice parried then Albert, unchallenged, chipped the Dane just as Davor Suker had done in Euro '96.

Manchester United had five men booked but it could have been worse. Cantona, already cautioned, escaped punishment when he planted his studs in Beardsley's ankle. He had a running battle with Albert throughout and, at the end, he refused to shake the Belgian's hand.

Newcastle did not care, they could afford to be generous by then. Earlier it was alleged a fan had punched Paddy Crerand, who was working for a Manchester radio station. Now they sang the Andy Cole song (the polite version) and cheered when a "ten bellies" Geordie ran on to prostrate himself before Keegan. When the final whistle went they roared in barely believing delight. It is, as Keegan stressed, only three points, but they could lead to so much more.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Srnicek; Watson (Barton, 88), Peacock, Albert, Beresford; Lee (Clark, 88), Beardsley, Batty, Ginola; Ferdinand, Beardsley. Substitutes not used: Hislop (gk), Asprilla, Gillespie.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; G Neville, May, Pallister, Irwin; , Beckham, Butt, Johnsen (McClair, 66), Poborsky (Scholes, 66); Cantona, Solskjaer (Cruyff, 55). Substitutes not used: P Neville, Van der Gouw (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Bookings: Newcastle United: Batty. Manchester United: Schmeichel, May, Butt, Cantona, Scholes.

Man of the match: Albert. Attendance: 36,579.

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