Horror show for Fergie as United drift off title pace
Newcastle Utd 3 Manchester Utd 0
Newcastle United were as good as Manchester United were poor last night.
Brimming with pace and adventure, Alan Pardew's side swept aside the champions with strikes from Demba Ba, Johan Cabaye and a Phil Jones own goal to delight the Toon Army and Manchester City.
This was a deserved win rooted in the finishing of Ba and Cabaye, and many other qualities. Those famous black-and-white shirts dripped with sweat as well as rainwater by the final whistle.
The spine of Pardew's side was so strong. Tim Krul enhanced his reputation again in goal, and at the heart of Newcastle's defence, Fabricio Coloccini tamed a distracted Wayne Rooney, who needs to regain his focus quickly.
Cheick Tiote was immense in the centre of midfield, joining Cabaye in sweeping Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs aside. Up front, Ba was an unstoppable zephyr who kept eluding Rio Ferdinand and Jones.
There had been a pace and purpose to Newcastle's football from the opening whistle, a quickness to their tempo as they poured forward, black-and-white-striped streaks hurtling towards Anders Lindegaard in the Manchester United goal.
Pardew had gone with two up, Ba and Shola Ameobi, seeking to put pressure on the returning Ferdinand as well as Lindegaard -- who replaced the dropped and chastened David de Gea.
The Dane impressed in the early stages, withstanding Newcastle's early flurry, making solid saves from the outstanding pair of Cabaye and Tiote.
The champions briefly clicked into gear, Park Ji-sung sending Patrice Evra galloping towards the box before the Frenchman cut the ball back to Nani.
The Portuguese steadied himself on the edge of the area and then tried to curl the ball around Krul, who almost dropped it to Rooney. The England striker cut a frustrated figure at times in the first half, railing at referee Howard Webb and then stumbling when nipping into the area.
Newcastle, playing with real tempo, were still on the front foot, still knocking at the visitors' back door. When Ameobi slipped the ball through for Ba, the striker was challenged by Ferdinand, their legs tangled, both fell amid loud Geordie appeals for a penalty.
Webb waved play on. Pardew was incandescent. Smiles soon replaced the scowls. Pardew's team suddenly went all long ball, cutting out Tiote and Cabaye in midfield as Krul launched the ball into the damp night sky. It dropped towards the edge of Manchester United's area and there was Ameobi beating Jones, flicking on, making the alarm bells ring even louder.
The champions' defence was cut apart, swinging open like saloon-bar doors.
As Newcastle fans stood expectantly, Ba hooked the ball past the hesitant Ferdinand and Lindegaard. For those fascinated by the Lindegaard-De Gea duel, no accusing finger could be pointed in the Dane's direction. Newcastle were simply too sharp for Ferguson's side. Ba was rampant, charging forward, letting fly just as Giggs caught him. Ryan Taylor's free-kick slipped just over.
Still Newcastle attacked, Ba responding to St James' cries of "shoot" with a low strike that Lindegaard clutched.
Newcastle's accuracy continued at the break, two fans managing three out of four hits in the crossbar challenge. The focus immediately changed back from bar to Ba. The Senegalese forward was almost unstoppable, Jones resorting to a late challenge to stop him speeding into the box.
Jones was booked as Newcastle plotted further punishment. Cabaye took control, driving the ball past the wall and in off the underside of the bar, leaving Lindegaard no chance.
St James' Park dissolved into party mood and the Gallowgate launched into the old Philippe Albert/Rupert the Bear song to laud Cabaye.
Ferguson removed the disappointing Dimitar Berbatov and sent on Danny Welbeck after 56 minutes. Rooney threw off the cloak of despond, almost scoring within a minute of Welbeck's arrival. Rooney's shot was cleared off the line by Danny Simpson. Ferguson twisted again, sending on Javier Hernandez. Still they were overwhelmed in the centre, still they looked nervous when Ba was running at Ferdinand or Jones.
Evra sought to rally his team, leading by example by gliding towards the edge of Newcastle's box before slipping the ball in towards Hernandez. Coloccini, who had been terrific against Rooney, simply stepped in and moved the ball away from Hernandez.
From back to front, Newcastle were impressing. Taylor was enjoying himself in right midfield, delivering some decent balls, not least one after 70 minutes which Ba headed wide.
Ferguson then played his last card, sending on Anderson for Rooney, whose removal stirred great delight among the Toon Army.
Rooney's face betrayed no emotion as he walked to the bench, shaking Ferguson's hand and becoming a spectator in a stadium where he has so often prospered. Giggs was now on the left, with Anderson partnering Carrick while Nani attempted to elude Davide Santon.
Pardew barked out instructions, reflecting the urgency suffusing his players, knowing how much victory would mean to the Newcastle fans and for the team after a recent wobble.
Even when the visitors managed to fashion an opening, Krul dived at the feet of Hernandez to end the threat.
The redoubtable barricades of Newcastle's defence contrasted with the one down the other end: poor communication between Lindegaard and Jones ended with the centre-half scoring his own goal. How the Gallowgate loved this. The Etihad too. (© Daily Telegraph, London)