For a time at least, recently promoted Newcastle United held firm against a team possessing vastly different Premiere League ambitions, making it difficult for The Red Devils to find shooting lanes and thread that last pass in the area in the first 30 minutes.
The Magpies even threatened to open the scoring themselves; Wayne Routledge took advantage of an exposed left flank following a rush by defender John O’Shea in the 8th minute, but Manchester’s central defense held firm against the ensuing cross; Andrew Carroll, active throughout and unmarked on a corner kick in the 11th minute, headed just wide a ball he should have put away.
While each side experienced their mutual frustrations, the tribulations of Wayne Rooney seemed entirely singular, as the formerly lauded wunderkind of English football tries to emerge from the hadal depths…
As the pressure built, however, Newcastle showed shades of a Championship side, with Nani continuously being the source of their troubles. In a span of four minutes (18th; 22nd) he was blatantly fouled twice, each infraction drawing a well deserved yellow; Joey Barton was booked a for a poor attempt at a tackle as Nani surged ahead with menace; James Perch brought him down from behind after Nani got around him while tracking down a bouncing goal kick close to the area.
Their composure seemingly set to completely unravel, Newcastle nearly gifted Dimitar Berbatov a ball in the box in the 27th minute. The ensuing blind outlet went straight to a pouncing Paul Scholes who somehow managed not to blast it into the back of the net. Three minutes later, only the keeper’s outstretched hand kept Nani from connecting with Berbatov on the far post.
While each side experienced their mutual frustrations, the tribulations of Wayne Rooney seemed entirely singular, as the formerly lauded wunderkind of English football tries to emerge from the hadal depths to which he has descended. Only in maneuvering around defenders could he display a deftness of form, for his finishing was entirely lacking.
So it was with a bit of irony that Berbatov, usually of the masterful near miss, opened the scoring in the 33rd.
He fired harmlessly wide twice in the opening 15 minutes, his ire compounded by back to back last gasp defending by Newcastle; Fabricio Coloccini denied a goal mouth shot following a feed from the right by Valencia; a sure breakaway was subsequently prevented just as he looked ready to rush forward. A misfire at the top of the box followed in the 20th; in the 31st Berbatov headed down a Valencia cross only for Rooney to fire wide into the seats. Again, he followed with a hard charging run that was killed off before it could bear any potential.
So it was with a bit of irony that Berbatov, usually of the masterful near miss, opened the scoring in the 33rd. Following a Newcastle turnover as they tried to bring it out of their end, Scholes collected to lead Berbatov just off the right post, the keeper helpless as the Bulgarian passed it into the opposite corner with his left foot.
Joey Barton beat Nani down the right side in the 38th, but his shot, like any others Newcastle would manage for the remainder, went directly to Van der Sar. Better chances would come, but the accuracy was never adjusted.
In the 42nd, Nani, the most dynamic player on the field by far, with rushes down the wing and up the middle, threaded a ball into the area for a surging Patrice Evra, who lashed a pass across that found Darren Fletcher after Rooney was unable to contain. With Coloccini right on him, Fletcher turned and slotted home.
The second half opened with more brilliance from Nani; further showing why this will be his year, he burst through mid and into the box with amazing pace, only to be denied by a tandem of defenders.
Scholes, having just taken care of his yellow card obligations, thought he drew a penalty kick in the 53rd, but he went down far too easily, following contact from Coloccini, for someone prone to dispensing harsh tackles. But the creativity sorely lacking from England’s midfield was on ample display. Another of his sublime flicks sent Berbatov ahead towards goal, the ball just going wide after being slotted under the keeper.
While he could be forgiven since he opened up the scoring, the missed opportunities again began to mount for Berbatov, with a ball sent across the goal mouth in the 68th, a Giggs (on for Nani in the 72nd) led feed towards goal in the 77th, and an Evra led through pass that he couldn’t lift over the keeper all standing out, all glaring since the faithful knew the Wayne Rooney of old would have buried at least one, if not two of these chances.
But, as it was, Rooney’s crestfallen ineffectiveness- ironically, he slotted home in an off-sides situation prior to his exit- and Berba’s 2nd half fruitless industry caused everyone to pin their hopes on Chicharito following his insertion in the 63rd. On for Rooney, a blazing Chicharito was found by Nani for a rush that would have meant goal, but for being a hair afoul of the linesman.
The instincts and pace are definitely there for the Mexican international, however. It’s worth noting his run to the back post just as Giggs’ slotted home to the same corner upon being picked out by a perfectly placed right side cross by Scholes. Firing from the left top corner of the area, Giggs’ shot bounced off the pitch twice before finding the far side, while Chicharito was right there should the shot go awry.