Rampant Reds punish mediocre Newcastle: Evans and Evra header Manchester United into second place

By Dean Wilkins

Attack was the best form of defence for Manchester United as two early strikes was enough to outclass a mediocre Newcastle.

After succumbing to four early goals this season it was United that bolted out the blocks with strong headers from Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra giving them the perfect start at the Sports Direct Arena.

Tom Cleverley’s 40-yard screamer curled its way into the top right corner of Steve Harper’s net and United found their three-goal cushion with 20 minutes left.

“It’s a great result – everyone knows this is one of the hardest games of the season,” said Wayne Rooney, who is yet to find the net this season.

“We’ve come and defended brilliantly.

“Certainly the first six games of the season we haven’t defended well enough and today we did brilliant – we knew we had to defend our box and we did that and scored three goals.

“We need to continue to do that for the rest of the season.”

The Northern Ireland centreback carved himself space in the area and latched onto the end of a Robin van Persie corner to nod in his second goal for the club in the eighth minute.

And with just 15 minutes of the game played, captain Evra converted United’s second corner of the game and doubled their lead.

Cleverley continued his fine start to the campaign with a longe-range effort that looked to be a inswinging cross for Van Persie – but he insisted it was a shot.

“I meant to put it in the far corner it’s a good finish and luckily it found the net,” said the England international.

“We all knew it was going to be tough [at Newcastle] and having the start we did was fantastic for us and I thought we really controlled the second half.”

But Newcastle soon settled into a fiery North East affair as Howard Webb dished out five bookings before the halfway point.

Struggling strike partners Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse failed to pose any real threat in United’s box as David de Gea reclaimed his place in United’s Premier League team from Anders Lindegaard.

Only the post and a shake of the head by the linesman kept the Magpies from forcing their way back into the game as Cisse’s header was deemed to have not fully crossed the line just after the restart – replays suggested otherwise.

Paul Scholes recovered from his 90 minutes against Tottenham last week to help United pass their way to the full-time whistle, as Alan Pardew’s remain unable to recapture their glistening form of last year.

But there was still time for an archetypal tackle from the veteran midfielder as he picked up the eighth yellow card of the game for a senseless lunge on Shola Ameobi.

Despite suffering a defensive injury crisis, United managed to keep a rare clean sheet and Rooney admitted the importance of the result.

“It’s massive [to not concede],” he said. “And with all the balls Newcastle put in the box I thought the back four and keeper were fantastic.”

And when questioned about his deeper role within the team, adding to his difficulty in finding the net this season, the former Everton ace dismissed any concerns about failing to get off the mark.

“I’m not worried at all as long as we keep winning we have players who have the ability to score,” he said. “And if it comes it comes but if it doesn’t I’m not too concerned.”

With only seven games of the season played, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men faced a seven-point chase on leaders Chelsea after their 4-1 thumping of Norwich yesterday.

But the rampant Reds found retribution for their 3-0 defeat in January against the Magpies and leap-frogged Manchester City to take second place in the Premier League table.

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