Rooney lets fly as the Souness 'castle crumble
Having had a terrible response from midweek against Everton, I was looking for Man Utd to really bounce back at Old Trafford yesterday. Ryan Giggs, Alan Smith, Darren Fletcher and Phil Neville were included at the expense of Christian Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes. But for me United were still not functioning at full expectancy, and all the while as they looked to install some dominance, they allowed Newcastle the time and space to form confidence within themselves, which was quite good for the Magpies considering they were playing with Alan Shearer as the lone frontman in front of a 4-1-4 set up, Ameobi playing wide and allowed to drift forward when the opportunity arose.
An overhead ball bounced towards Tim Howard's goal that Wes Brown allowed Shearer to get to, heading it over the advancing Howard but it was comfortably gathered by Ferdinand and cleared. A sign that the Man U back four were susceptible to hesitancy. Howard again cleared feebly from a Phil Neville back pass and between Quinten Fortune, Brown and Gabriel Heinze, no defender was alert enough to block Darren Ambrose coming through. Good finish from the former Ipswich man. Heinze subsequently went for a high ball with Shola Ameobi and came down horribly onto his right leg, seeming to jar the knee and ankle joints but thankfully not breaking the leg, initial reports have suggested. Stretched off, I wish all the best for the Argentinian in his recovery.
One can only imagine what was said by sir Alex at half time but I don't feel it was teacup-against-the-wall stuff, or football boot even. Utd seemed promising going forward and slightly edgy when under pressure, otherwise Newcastle hadn't formed enough dominance to control the game for the next half. From the re-start Utd went forward and they hardly looked back. To cap off the pressure, another long ball was headed back by Newcastle and then those watching witnessed yet another Rooney super volley. Everything about it was superb, impact, curve, despairing dive, and it bringing Utd back into the game. Looking on Rooney's slightly muted celebrations, it seemed he hit the ball out of anger more than technique, he had a mediocre 1st half and made up for it with this strike.
After that Newcastle went forward and almost regained the lead, Ambrose again surging through but couldn't capitalise. Ameobi was OK but had a quieter than usual match, not so much of his close control, knocking pass players and skills that enables him to create much out of little. Graeme Souness had Stephen Carr holding between defence and midfield as a result of injuries and suspensions, with Patrick Kluivert and Lauren Robert were on the bench. Newcastle could have perhaps done with the Dutchman and the Frenchman being on sooner, as Newcastle's creativity waned after a few attempts towards Utd's goal.
As Utd pushed forward themselves, Given tipped over well from a Utd player to concede what was a second corner in a minute. From that second corner, Newcastle marking went haywire. Elliott lost out on Rooney but crucially was Ameobi with Brown, Ameobi is some inches taller but didn't jump, allowing Brown to jump and aim a header past Given. Souness and the now substituted Shearer were grimaced.
Newcastle had a very good chance of upsetting Utd in their home ground since 1972 and now that was lost. From a team who looked prospective here and in Europe, the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, bringing the captain and talisman to sign another extension, to one decimated by injuries, suspensions, on-field fighting between two of their better players, criticism from one player, petulance from another, the wagon has slowed and reversed. The players now need to get up, get out and push, put in the effort as they near to approaching the end of their Premiership travels.