Old Trafford win was one to savour

Tuesday 10th December 2013 10:33

Alan Pardew: Victorious at Old Trafford

Alan Pardew: Victorious at Old Trafford

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Newcastle FanZoner Sam Winter heaps praise on boss Alan Pardew and says the win over Manchester United was one to savour.

Say what you want about Manchester United, about David Moyes or Sir Alex Ferguson, but Newcastle United were absolutely magnificent at Old Trafford on Saturday.

After being swept aside for 41 years by the imperious Red Devils it was finally banished to memory. Old Trafford is no longer a fortress of fear guarded by the frightening Ferguson, and as Yohan Cabaye steered home in the 61st minute there was an overwhelming feeling that the three points were heading back to Tyneside on this most precious occasion.

This was no smash-and-grab performance by the visitors, Newcastle have been widely praised for their approach and subsequent deliverance of game-plan. The home side was largely stifled by Newcastle's back four, skipper Fabricio Coloccini at his supreme best. Loic Remy held the ball up superbly, and the addition of Vurnon Anita provided a control in possession and added steel alongside the mighty Cheick Tiote.

My eyebrows were slightly raised when reading the team sheet prior to kick off, anticipating a continued 4-4-2 with SholaAmeobi's presence ruffling the feathers of Manchester United's defenders. But this is why Alan Pardew is a Premier League manager and I am not, the Londoners tactics and selection proving spot on.

Anita and Tiote were quite brilliant in midfield, overshadowing the match-winner Cabaye and getting in the faces of a shaken Manchester United side. Dutchman Anita summed up the performance as "good, beautiful football" adding: "We pressed the ball and kept it well when we won it back."

Exactly right. The composure in possession was a wonderful sight, and with Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran working as tirelessly as ever along with Remy, Newcastle found the perfect balance to defeat the champions.

That balance has long been missing from Newcastle's play, notably last season. At times play has been too gung-ho or too reserved, often lacking an intelligence required to win important games. But Old Trafford witnessed a Newcastle side playing with that match-winning intelligence. Coloccini said after the game that his side now knew "when we can play, and when we have to be a bit more direct".

"We want to keep the ball all the time but sometimes you have to change it and you also have to fight," added the captain, citing Cabaye's goal as the perfect example.

A long ball from goalkeeper Tim Krul to Sissoko provided the platform, moments later Cabaye was celebrating a historic goal. Either side of that strike Newcastle did exactly what Coloccini reported; kept the ball and fought.

Outfought a beleaguered Manchester United who offered little going forward, owing as much to a well marshalled Newcastle as their own failings. There were still the pangs of panic every time they went forward, the heart still skipped a beat, but the usual end product was nowhere to be found. No fear factor, no ruthlessness. The panic waned the more the game went on, replaced by a confidence that the win was secure.

Granted this is the perfect time to play Manchester United at Old Trafford, the perfect season to beat them home and away. Granted Wayne Rooney was suspended and Robin van Persie prematurely back from injury. But that squad is still the champions of England, still Manchester United. You still have to really perform to beat them, and Newcastle United really did.

A lot of credit has to go to Pardew, the majority of it. He knew it was the best time to play them and he found the best way to beat them. All the players have come out and said how he drummed into them the importance of this game, the 41 years since leaving Old Trafford with three points.

Swansea was a reality check, another learning curve in this developing season on Tyneside. Newcastle are finding how to play away from home after last season, features are developing game by game. There's always going to be a setback among the successes. Pardew admitted that he should have freshened the team up in midweek. He brought Hatem Ben Arfa on early in the second half on Saturday to fantastic effect, bringing an end to a period of home side dominance.

Saturday was also the game where we really saw the strength of Newcastle's injury free squad, shown in particular by the substitute bench. Cisse, Ben Arfa and Gutierrez sat alongside recent regulars Ameobi and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa; all former cornerstones of a Newcastle team, barely getting a look in. Steven Taylor another one, but he can't even make the bench.

If Pardew can freshen up at the right moments, and the squad can stay fit, then Newcastle will be challenging at the right end of the table - no doubt about it. If there's ever a victory to inspire confidence then its beating Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in 41 years.

The headlines have been about Manchester United and David Moyes as expected. Harsh on Newcastle of course but Alan Pardew won't mind too much, his side sitting nicely on 26 points and playing very well indeed.

But with Everton flying and the weekend's visitors Southampton up and among the top sides, there can be no resting of laurels for Newcastle. Not in this most absorbing and unpredictable Premier League season. But still, for the rest of the week, let us savour it. Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle United.

Follow Sam on Twitter at @SamWinter89 - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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