Manchester United have progressed to the next round of the Capital One Cup after a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at Old Trafford this morning, courtesy of goals from Anderson and Tom Cleverley, his first competitive goal for the club.
Sir Alex Ferguson played a very experienced side in the middle of the park and up front, with Wayne Rooney making his return to the first XI looking much slimmer than when he last left the pitch on a stretcher against Fulham, but at the back it was all kids, with the back four only sharing two first team appearances (one start for Alexander Buttner and a 20 minute cameo for Scott Wooton) between them. Darren Fletcher also made his first start since his miraculous comeback from illness which seemed to have derailed his career.
Newcastle probably started a weaker line up, comparatively. Cheik Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini both made their respective returns from injury on the night, but were the only two in the side who would be considered part of Newcastle’s absolute strongest team. That’s not to say they were short of experience though, as Shola Ameobi, Sylvain Marveaux and ex-United winger Gabriel Obertan were all handed starts.
United’s suprerior quality showed for most of the game however, with the combined energy, quality and experience of Anderson, Fletcher and Cleverley in the middle allowing the home side to make Tiote an almost non-entity in the game. Anderson in particular was impressive, imposing himself on the game with his impressive range of penetrating passes and driving runs at the heart of the opposition defence. Fletcher sweeped efficiently in front of the young back four, who would have appreciated the stand-in captain’s smart screening efforts.
At the back, the young defenders played a solid game. Michael Keane and Marnick Vermijl were both making their debuts, whilst Scott Wooton was making his first start for the club, but all handled the occassion very well, with Vermijl the only one who seemed to suffer from any début jitters. It was not to the detriment of the team as a whole though, and all four will take plenty of confidence from the game. The introduction of Papis Cisse in the second half made life a little more difficult for the youngsters at the back, and the striker would eventually get a goal against his inexperienced opponents, but for the most part, they managed to contain the striker well.
Wayne Rooney was the gem of United’s attack on the day. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but the talisman looked a completely different person to the man who left Old Trafford on a stretcher in his last game in Manchester. Slimmed down, sharp on the ball, energetic and vibrant, this was the Rooney that we should have seen against Everton on the opening day of the season. It is still concerning that it has taken Rooney until the end of September, and plenty of time in the gym courtesy of an injury, to get back into decent shape, but it goes without saying that United are undoubtedly a stronger side with Rooney back in shape and back in form. Rooney sat behind Welbeck and Hernandez, almost as a false nine, with Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez starting out wide and dropping into central positions as Rooney dropped deeper to link with the midfield.
Despite having three recognized strikers further up the pitch, the opening goal came from a more unlikely source. Newcastle were defending deep, and with little width, perhaps it was always likely that any goal was going to come from outside the box, with plenty of space in between the midfield and defence to exploit. Anderson was the man for the job too, striking a brilliant drive which found the back of the net via the inside of the post, after a surging run from just within United’s attacking half in the 44th minute.
United maintained their dominance over the game for most of the second half, and it was Anderson’s midfield partner who scored the eventual winner only 13 minutes into the half. Tom Cleverley should have scored in the first half when he missed from a good lay off courtesy of Javier Hernandez, but he got his first competitive United goal in the second half, after some lovely passing football from his side. He picked up Welbeck’s pass, and despatched a fine curling finish from outside the box around Coloccini and out of Robert Elliot’s reach, tearing away to celebrate with Danny Welbeck, whom he has played with since his early teens since arriving at United.
The introduction of Papis Cisse shortly after changed the game, and the experienced striker was eager to score his first for the season, which he did with his first touch of the ball. Shane Ferguson’s cross found Cisse at the back post. He would hit the bar later with a superb bit of improvisation, after bringing down a high ball on his chest and attempting an overhead kick, not too dissimilar to the one Dimitar Berbatov famously scored against Liverpool.
United were also denied by the post in the same half, when Wayne Rooney found Javier Hernandez with a superb through ball. The Mexican rounded the young Newcastle keeper, and smashed his shot from a tight angle against the bar.
Further débuts were handed to Ryan Tunnicliffe and Robbie Brady later in the game, whilst Nick Powell also made his second appearance for the club. United ran out the game 2-1 winners, with Fletcher playing all 90 minutes, making for a fine night for Sir Alex and Manchester United.
United have drawn Chelsea in the next round, whom they will play at Stamford Bridge in late October.
United: De Gea 6.5, Keane 6.5, Vermijl 6, Wooton 6.5, Buttner 6.5, Anderson 7, Fletcher 7, Cleverley 7, Hernandez 6, Rooney 8*, Welbeck 6
Man of the Match:
Well, it took him a little longer than most seasons to register with me for Man of the Match this time around, but boy was he good tonight. Not the goal threat he represents at his best, but he looked slim and sharp, and was at the heart of almost everything positive that United pulled off. More of the same please, Wazza.