Challenge Facing Newcastle Is Set out in Black and White by Scholes
Wallace, Sam, The Independent (London, England)
MANCHESTER UNITED 3 Berbatov 33, Fletcher 41, Giggs 85 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
This is the 16th full season in the Old Trafford career of Paul Scholes, who has been around so long that he was actually playing when Newcastle United were still serious Premier League title contenders. A lot has changed for Newcastle in that time but precious little for Scholes.
He has lived through the United eras of Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo and is still here doing what he does best. It was under Scholes' spell that Newcastle fell last night, fatally allowing the 35-year-old to dictate the play and make it look so very easy for the home side.
In the directors' box last night was Franco Baldini, Fabio Capello's lieutenant and the man who tried, during that mad night in May, to coax Scholes out of retirement for one last England swansong in South Africa. The Capello camp always maintain that Scholes agreed to do it and then changed his mind overnight. Last night Baldini was not the only one wondering what difference Scholes might have made.
For Newcastle it was a chastening return to the Premier League although no less than they deserved. When Scholes crossed the ball for Ryan Giggs to volley in his side's third with five minutes left it could have been any point in the last 15 years for United. Newcastle might have been out of the Premier League for a year but very little has changed while they were away.
The barb aimed at Wayne Rooney from the away support became audible halfway through the first half. "Where were you in Africa?" was the question, which was not, you can be sure, a polite inquiry as to how he spent his holidays.
If that is as bad as the World Cup backlash gets then Rooney will be thankful. It is hard to imagine now that six years ago, when he returned from Euro 2004 as the hottest property in English football, that it was Newcastle who made Everton the first offer for him thus forcing Manchester United to use next summer's transfer kitty to sign the striker.
Those days for Newcastle are long gone and it was the team that got them promoted from the Championship - apart from James Perch - that they fielded last night. The faces might be the same as those relegated from the Premier League last year but as a club they are much less of a force in the transfer market. And at Old Trafford there is no hiding place for a team like that.
As for Manchester United, hope springs eternal. On the bench Sir Alex Ferguson picked the strikers Federico Macheda and Javier Hernandez, the inspiration behind the sombreros in the crowd. The Newcastle fans sang "There's only one greedy bastard," in reference to Michael Owen. But Owen was not even a substitute for the home side.
Even so, Ferguson stuck with the 4-4-2 formation that he deployed against Chelsea at Wembley which meant a start for Dimitar Berbatov. The striker scored United's first goal on 33 minutes when Scholes played a neat pass inside the left-back Jose Enrique and Berbatov beat Steve Harper with a shot across him. …