By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the Sports Direct Arena
Newcastle United 0
Manchester United 3 (Evans 8, Evra 16, Cleverley 71)
Newcastle United suffered their first home defeat of the season, as they went down 3-0 to Manchester United at the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
First half headers from defenders Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra gave the Red Devils breathing space at the break, and a wonder strike from Tom Cleverley midway through the second period put the result beyond any doubt.
Evans and Evra both profited from slack marking at corners inside the opening 16 minutes, but Newcastle improved dramatically and could well have had a goal to their name Jonas Gutierrez, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba or Papiss Cisse taken any of their chances before the break.
The Magpies' best opportunity came soon after the restart when visiting goalkeeper David De Gea pushed out a Cisse header which appeared to have already crossed the line, but the goal was not given, and soon after Cleverley struck into the top corner from 30 yards.
Manchester United created the opening chance of the game on five minutes through Danny Welbeck.
When Newcastle failed to clear their lines from a corner, the ball was sent back into the box. Robin Van Persie headed down to Evans, who sent the ball into Welbeck's pass with a clever backheel, but the England international forward's finish was weak and straight at Steve Harper.
Harper then had to be alert at his near-post to divert behind a poked effort from Van Persie, but from the resulting corner the Red Devils finally broke through.
Van Persie swung a corner right into the heart of the penalty area where Evans had escaped the attentions of Mike Williamson, and rose highest to thump a header into the top corner.
The visitors weren't content with just a single-goal lead and within three minutes Rafael had raced forward from right-back to drive across goal and narrowly wide, while Harper was robbed by Welbeck on the edge of his area but thankfully the front man somehow shot wide of the empty net.
Harper redeemed himself, however, in the 15th minute, diving full-length to his right to claw away Wayne Rooney's 20-yard free-kick which wasdestined for the back of the net. But the veteran could do nothing seconds later as Manchester United doubled their advantage.
Again it came from a corner, this time delivered by Rooney, and Evra stole in at the front post to head home.
It took 18 minutes for Newcastle to muster their first shot. Crosses from Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa weren't fully dealt with by the visitors' defence and captain Gutierrez let fly with a low strike from outside the area which flew narrowly the wrong side of the upright.
They threatened again in the 25th minute with a corner routine straight off the training ground. With Manchester United expecting a floated delivery into the heart of the penalty area, Cabaye instead drilled it low into the path of Ba about 15 yards out, but the front man's first-time shot was always rising and comfortably cleared the crossbar.
Newcastle were starting to get a grip on proceedings and, as they did, the temperature of the game was quickly rising.
In the space of three minutes, Rio Ferdinand, Van Persie and Cheick Tiote all found themselves in referee Howard Webb's notebook, while Cabaye also sent a curled effort just over the top from 25 yards.
The pressure was growing and Ba flicked over a cross from Cisse, before Ben Arfa was given space to run at the visitors' defence before sending a soft shot wide.
With half-time approaching Cisse nodded Cabaye's free-kick off target, but the Magpies were unable to make their pressure count and went in at the break trailing 2-0.
Within five minutes of the restart Newcastle should have been on the scoresheet. A teasing Shane Ferguson cross from the left flank saw Ba rise above De Gea, but only loop a header onto the crossbar.
And as it dropped, Cisse stooped to head the loose ball goalwards, with De Gea clawing it away after it had crossed the line, as television replays showed.
The Magpies were desperate for a foothold on the contest and Ba glanced a header wide from Cabaye's delivery, shortly before manager Alan Pardew decided a double change was needed. Vurnon Anita and Shola Ameobi were introduced for Ferguson and Cisse, with Gutierrez moving back to fill in at left-back.
The substitutions almost paid immediate dividends, with Anita involved in a neat flowing move that ended with Ameobi heading across goal and wide via a slight deflection.
The second half had been played almost entirely in the Manchester United half but the visitors showed their quality - and made Newcastle pay for their missed chances - in the 71st minute with a stunner from Cleverley.
Picking up a short pass from Rooney wide on the left, the former Watford loanee tried his luck from 30 yards, curling it perfectly into the far top corner to leave the majority of a sell-out Sports Direct Arena crowd silenced.
That third knocked the stuffing out of the hosts, and the game reached its inevitable conclusion with neither side able to carve anything meaningful out in the final third of the pitch.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Steve Harper; David Santon, Mike Williamson, James Perch, Shane Ferguson (Vurnon Anita 63); Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tiote (Gael Bigirimana 80), Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez; Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse (Shola Ameobi 63)
Manchester United: (4-2-3-1): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra (c); Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick; Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney (Paul Scholes 80), Shinji Kagawa (Antonio Valencia 55); Robin Van Persie (Ryan Giggs 87)
Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Scott Wootton, Anderson, Javier Hernandez
Referee: Howard Webb (Yorkshire)
Bookings: Newcastle United - Tiote (33), Gutierrez (42), Perch (75), Bigirimana (86); Manchester United - Kagawa (21), Ferdinand (30), Van Persie (31), Scholes (90)