Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney brings back memories of Paul Scholes
Man Utd 3 - Newcastle 0
Wayne Rooney admitted there was a touch of Paul Scholes about his performance as he ran the midfield in Manchester United's easy win over Newcastle United.
Rooney scored twice and set up the other goal in United's 3-1 victory at Old Trafford.
The United skipper, playing in midfield, timed his run from deep to perfection to turn home expensive Columbian striker Radamel Falcao's square pass and it was the same story just before the break as he ran on to Juan Mata's through ball to double the lead.
The 29-year-old then rounded off a perfect Boxing Day afternoon with a fine long pass which Robin van Persie nodded past Jak Alnwick.
Rooney believes his brace was reminiscent of the kind of performances by United hero Scholes, who scored many of his 155 United goals with well-timed runs from deep.
"It's a role that I've played many times and I know I can play," Rooney said when asked about playing in the number 10 role behind Van Persie and Falcao.
"The manager has given me even more licence to get forward and get into the box from that role.
"As Paul (Scholes) did many times over his career, he could see the ball when it was wide and see the space and run into it - I did that this afternoon with my two goals.
"It's nice to win, nice to score goals and I'm really delighted with my performance today."
In the summer Rooney said he was reluctant to start playing deeper, but he has taken to the role well since being moved there by Van Gaal for the last three games.
The United boss plans to keep Rooney there for some time yet, it seems.
"When you score two goals and you give the assist to the third goal, then you are happy as the manager. He is very happy also," Van Gaal said of Rooney.
"He has the lung capacity to run 90 minutes as a midfielder that's why I used him also like a midfielder.
"I can also use him as a striker.
"For the team at the moment, it's better he plays in midfield."
Daryl Janmaat and Ayoze Perez had decent chances for Newcastle in the first half, but they could not take the lead and United made them pay once they had found their form.
The Magpies only found the net in the 87th minute when Papiss Cisse scored a penalty following Phil Jones' foul on Jack Colback.
It could have been a different story had referee Michael Jones awarded the away side a spot-kick in the first half when Mata clipped Yoan Gouffran's heels.
Alan Pardew was unhappy with the decision.
"The referee has got a bad call very wrong," the Newcastle manager said.
"I think that was a penalty. I think Mata's run across the back of a player who is going to head the ball across goal.
"That's a goalscoring opportunity. It was clumsy and that was a penalty."
Pardew, who has overseen four straight defeats, admitted Newcastle were not good enough to stop Rooney, Van Persie, Mata and Falcao, who looked dangerous throughout.
"We need to defend better than we did today. Today we was a little bit loose," Pardew said.
Van Gaal was happy with his team's seventh win in eight matches, but he was less than impressed by the fact that his team now have a match against Tottenham on Sunday lunch time.
"With Fifa and Uefa's rules it's forbidden to play within 48 hours. In England, it's okay," the Dutchman said.
"I cannot prepare my team like I have to prepare.
"We have unit meetings, and team meetings, we have training 11 against 11, and assimilating opponents, we cannot do that now.
"But I am very pleased with today's performance.
"To create chances and score fantastic goals like this makes me happy.
"We have dominated the game for 90 minutes.
"That's the most important thing, to dominate, in spite of the opponents having a defensive way of playing."
Van Gaal had to do without British record signing Angel Di Maria after he was injured in training on Christmas Eve.
"The pelvis is not in a right relationship with his leg," the former Bayern Munich manager said.
"I don't think (it's serious), but I am not a doctor."