Manchester United traveled to the northeast of England in search of vengeance for the 3-nil hiding the visitors received the last time they played yesterday's opponent at the venerable St. James Park. Sir Alex sought to stir the pot by returning David De Gea to goal against Newcastle United, and playing an extremely attacking lineup in front of him, one that featured exactly zero natural wingers but did include Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley. Contrary to the wish of many, however, the Scot stuck with Patrice Evra at right back, complementing him in defense with Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Rafael. Michael Carrick once again lined up deeply to begin the game, attempting to control the tempo of the game and keep the United back four from being overrun by a marauding Geordie lineup that included the red hot Demba Ba, the newly rejuvenated Papis Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye, among others. United began the game in penetrating form, but Danny Welbeck scuffed an early opportunity for the away side, while RVP's initial attempt was turned away by the Newcastle 'keeper Steve Harper. Inside of eight minutes, though, Jonny Evans outleapt all other comers to turn a United corner kick into a deserved 1-nil lead. Danny Welbeck generously contrived to miss a gift from Harper on a giveaway inside the box, the goal agape and RVP lurking dangerously alone in front of net, and the opportunity for a quick 2-nil lead went begging. When Rooney was denied on a free kick, however, the disappointment was short-lived. Proving that he can score goals, as well, the beleaguered United Captain Patrice Evra doubled the visitors' lead on 15 minutes when he scored the afternoon's second goal by a defensive player. Newcastle found their sea legs 20 minutes too late, urged on by the home crowd and turning the game into a contest at long last. Challenges turned feisty as both teams got stuck in, the fouls and the play hot and heavy, and Referee Howard Webb was forced to go repeatedly to his pocket for a card matching the color of his bright yellow shirt. By half time it was Newcastle giving as good as they were getting, and the Reds could hardly be comfortable despite the two goal advantage.
David De Gea was forced into heavy action as the second half opened, denying Papiss Cisse's header after 90% of the ball had crossed the goal line. That one play encapsulated the Spaniard's full game: mystifyingly poor on his attempted clearance of the Newcastle cross, but stupefyingly reactive on his denial of the Sengalese striker's point blank effort. Kagawa was replaced by Antonio Valencia before the hour mark, as Sir Alex sought to regain some of his side's early offensive initiative and regain some possession and width on an attack that had begun to look just a bit too narrow. Alan Pardew countered by replacing Cisse with Shola Ameobi, hoping the latter's mid-week Europa League goal was a harbinger of things to come. The home side forced the men in Red into a defensive retreat, as they threw everything they had into attack. But it was a dart from Tom Cleverley at the other end of the pitch, the young Englishman either attempting to catch Harper off his line or slightly over-hitting an intended cross for Van Persie -- take your pick, it's all the same to Cleverley -- that delivered all three points on the afternoon to the Mancunians, and reversed in full the prior visit's score line. The home side and their full-throated supporters were rocked by the blow and, momentarily shorn of their confidence, allowed the visitors to seize the initiative and hold onto the ball. Paul Scholes was brought on to reinforce the trend, and it was in that manner that the team saw the game out. The game was by far the squad's most committed effort of the young season, showcasing their skills on the offensive end of the pitch, and their defensive cohesion at the opposite. It's a start, and something that will no doubt encourage the many supporters who had been waiting for this type of stellar performance over a full 90 minutes. This is farlieonfootie for October 8.