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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Manchester United Vs. New Castle Result Report

United produced an utterly imperious performance against a beleaguered Newcastle to move top of the Premier League on Saturday night, Cristiano Ronaldo heading up the 6-0 victory with his first hat-trick for the Reds.

Astonishingly, all of United's goals came in a second-half blitz. Carlos Tevez (2) and Rio Ferdinand also got in on the act in a game the Reds dominated from start to finish. Remarkably, it could have been even more convincing. Clear-cut opportunities ran comfortably into double figures, and so too could the scoreline.

Newcastle arrived in Manchester in the midst of uncertainty. The departure of Sam Allardyce after a five-match run without a win was hardly the best preparation three days before a trip to Old Trafford. And it showed.

United, buoyed by the news of Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham earlier in the day, were in mood to take mercy on the visitors. And with a place atop the Premier League up for grabs, the Reds started at a tempo Newcastle struggled to cope with.

Wayne Rooney had two 25-yard shots saved by Shay Given inside the first ten minutes. The first arrived after Michael Carrick’s cutting through-ball, but Rooney’s shot was high over the bar. Given was proving to be the nemesis of the United striker as twice either side of the 15-minute mark the Newcastle goalkeeper denied him. First Rooney cut inside from the left to hit a low, skidding drive that forced Given to turn the ball behind for a corner, then he proved equal to a fizzing Rooney volley from Carrick’s wonderful, arced pass.

After 27 minutes Ronaldo set a course through the heart of Newcastle’s defence. He skipped past two players and took on Steven Taylor, but the Magpies defender left a leg out to bring Ronaldo down – as clear a penalty as you are likely to see. But Rob Styles was unmoved, as he was a minute later when Alan Smith bundled Ryan Giggs over inside the area. The Welshman would have been fortunate to earn a spot-kick, but Ronaldo had every right to feel aggrieved.

Newcastle offered very little threat. But a team’s manager-less state does not necessarily preclude the ability to turn their fortunes around. In fact, it often encourages it. And Michael Owen, always capable of snatching a goal, did have the ball in the back of the net. Edwin van der Sar had already stopped as the linesman’s flag was raised, but television replays showed the decision was incorrect.

United continued to pepper Given’s goal, but to no avail. Ronaldo had one shot saved and watched his downward header from a corner go narrowly wide. The long and the short of the first-half tale was that United should have been ahead, regardless of Styles’ inability to see a clear foul on Ronaldo.

Undeterred, the Reds began the second half with the same dominance and purpose. Inside 30 seconds of the restart Taylor cleared a Tevez shot off the line and somehow turned Rooney’s follow-up over the bar.

But United would not be denied for much longer. Four minutes into the half Ronaldo gave the Reds the lead. Smith clipped the Portuguese winger’s heels as he went to shoot, and Styles awarded a rare decision in United’s favour.

Ronaldo geared up to take the 20-yard shot. Old Trafford anticipated his usual, occasionally hit-and-miss, policy of power. But he elected to strike his shot underneath the wall, to great effect. Given, who saw it late, was fooled more than anyone, unable to keep the ball out.

It took just seven minutes for the Reds to make it 2-0. A poor Given clearance struck Claudio Cacapa, freeing Giggs to square a pass across goal for Tevez to slot home at the far post.

United were utterly dominant. Steeled by a rock-solid defence, steered by Carrick and Anderson’s passing in midfield, and always with the threat of Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo on swift counter attacks. Just as importantly, there was no danger of Old Trafford’s atmosphere falling flat. A rapturous Stretford End even cheekily requested: “Fergie, give us a song!”

On the pitch there was still plenty to shout about. The Reds’ forward play was sumptuous, and soon garnered a devastating third goal. Carrick, Rooney and Tevez all interchanged passes, before the Argentinian found Ronaldo’s run into the box. His finish was as sharp as the most clinical poacher, and his 21st goal of the season ensured beyond any doubt that three points and top spot would be United’s.

Simpson, Rooney (again!) and Carrick were denied goals in the final 20 minutes, but there was still more to come. Rio Ferdinand popped up at the far post five minutes from time to make it four, before Ronaldo completed his hat-trick and Tevez grabbed a second in off the bar. On a day when both Arsenal and Liverpool dropped points, this was an emphatic message to send out to the rest of the Premier League: the Champions will take some shifting.

Team Line-ups

Manchester United: Van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (Simpson 68); Ronaldo, Carrick, Anderson (Fletcher 73), Giggs (Nani 73); Tevez, Rooney.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Park.
Booked: Rooney

Newcastle United: Given; Carr, Taylor, Cacapa, Enrique; Milner (Viduka 65), Butt, Smith, N’Zogbia; Duff, Owen (Rozehnal 83).
Subs not used: Harper, Emre, LuaLua.
Booked: Duff
Sent off: Smith

Attendance: 75,965

Ronny revels in 'special day'

Cristiano Ronaldo was predictably elated to finally score his first United hat-trick in Saturday’s destruction of Newcastle at Old Trafford.

Having struck braces on 13 separate occasions for the Reds, the Portuguese winger finally bagged a match ball with a second half treble against the Magpies, taking United back to the top of the Barclays Premier League in style.

“I’ve said before, if I score two in every game then I’m very happy,” he told Setanta Sports. “But I’ve looked for a few years to score three goals for this massive club and I’m very proud.

“It’s a special day. I’m happy of course to win the game and to go top of the league, I think this is most important. It is also important to score, to help my team and today I’m very proud and happy.”

With United rampant in retaking top spot, Ronaldo is keen for the champions to kick on and stay in top form as the title race unfolds over the coming months.

“It’s important to stay at the top of the table,” he said. “If the team plays like that, in the second half, I’m sure we are the best team. But you need to keep going like that. It’s a good moment for the team and for the players.” Read more...

Boss applauds "incredible" Ronny

Sir Alex Ferguson described Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring this season as “fantastic” and “incredible” after the Portuguese winger shifted his tally for the campaign up to 22.

That figure puts him one behind last season’s total of 23, and a remarkable ten more goals than he had scored at the same stage last season.

“It’s fantastic, incredible in fact,” Sir Alex said after the game.

“We wondered at the start of last season whether he could match last season’s tally of 23. You had to say ‘why not?’

“I expected him to score more this season because he works so hard. That’s why there were no bets this season, all bets are off with Ronaldo,” he joked.

“[His first hat-trick] was always coming. He’s been close on a number of occasions but today he capped a really fine display with the hat-trick. We’re all delighted for him.”

But this was more than just the Ronaldo show. Carlos Tevez grabbed two goals, while Rio Ferdinand chipped in with another.

Likewise, it wasn’t just about the goals, it was another sterling defensive display, which Sir Alex feels could be the foundation for retaining United’s title crown.

“Our performance last week at Aston Villa in the cup was carved out of a magnificent defensive display,” he said. “It gave us the energy to go and win the game in the last 20 minutes. It was the same against Newcastle.

“You have to have good home form,” he added, alluding to United’s 11 wins from 12 at Old Trafford. “We’ve lost three games away from home, but the reason we’re top of the league is because our home form has been so good.

“It’s a hard league. You saw the results with Arsenal and Liverpool drawing, teams are taking points off one another.

"We expected it to be tough. Teams well below the top four are spending a lot of money on their squads. There is a drive for teams to improve themselves and stay in the Premier League. The points total could be lower this year.” Read more...