Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Five things we learnt from St James' Park

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 07: Man United player Jonny Evans scores the first goal the Barclays Premier league game between Newcastle United and Manchester United at Sports Direct Arena on October 7, 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

1 Rooney is back and comfortable in his new role



There is still work to be done on Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck as an emerging force, but the freedom afforded to Rooney creates headaches for opponents. He created two goals yesterday and was enjoying himself so much that by the finish he tried to chip Steve Harper from the edge of the Newcastle penalty area. A break does, as Sir Alex Ferguson suggested, seem to rekindle his love for the game. There was no scowling yesterday, just genuine vision.



2 It's not the end for Rio



Another week when Rio Ferdinand has found himself at the centre of a storm for doing nothing wrong. He pretty much did nothing wrong again yesterday, and that is why Ferguson will not bemoan his international career effectively ending. Ferdinand's and Evans's partnership almost carried United to the title last season and was in stark contrast to Newcastle's brittle defence yesterday.



3 Ba and Cissé still isn't working



Partnerships do not have to be aesthetically pleasing to work – think Les Ferdinand and Alan Shearer – but Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé remain an incomplete work, 10 months after Cissé arrived in England. Both go through spells of scoring, Ba before Cissé arrived, Cissé after he arrived, Ba once the current season started, but playing both when one is out of form (that is currently Cissé, who was again substituted) leaves Newcastle light in midfield. Manchester United had too many bodies in key areas and it helped their control.



4 De Gea is still vulnerable



It may seem harsh to point a finger at a goalkeeper who kept a clean sheet but there remains a clear vulnerability about David de Gea on crosses. Three times he flapped when the ball came over at height in the presence of attacking players and he is yet to emerge as a commanding presence. He completely missed a Yohan Cabaye corner in the 34th minute and in the 50th made a mess of a ball swung over by Hatem Ben Arfa that nearly gifted Newcastle a goal.



5 Newcastle won't match last season's achievements



Newcastle gambled heavily in the summer by failing to invest in a team that had surprisingly finished fifth. This game added support to the argument that they will not match that finish because of such a decision. Shorn of their two first- choice central defenders, the home side were beaten by the 16th minute because of a lack of depth. Alan Pardew's side needed to kick on this season, and they have not.