Manchester Utd 3-0 Newcastle Utd: A rude awakening for returning Magpies as past-master Scholes triumphs

Posted on August 18, 2010


Puppet-master Scholes pulls Utd's strings

The re-inauguration of Sky Sports’ Monday night football  was marked by the fitting return of an erstwhile classic .

In recent times, Manchester Utd vs. Newcastle Utd  hasn’t  produced clashes of the ilk that once provoked Kevin Keegan to deliver an incensed  TV sermon/rant in over-sized  90’s headphones (and spawned endless replays ever since). In 2010, Newcastle would “jus luv it” if they managed a clean-sheet.

After a seasons’ sojourn, the Magpies re-introduction to the top flight was a baptism of fire fuelled by the flame-headed Paul Scholes.

The game’s opening exchanges intimated at a toughly contested match-up. The deposed Champions have always been notoriously sluggish in getting out of the blocks and Chris Hughton’s early tactics worked well. Alan Smith and Kevin Nolan were deployed to press Wembley man-of-the-match, Paul Scholes, and the pony-tailed duo of Jonas Gutiérrez and Andy Carroll looked lively early on.

With 10mins gone it was Newcastle who were ruing the best chance of the game. Striker Carroll won his side the first corner of the match; delivered in by the boo-boys’ favourite Joey Barton, Carroll rose unchallenged to direct a free-header high and wide. Undeterred, the Magpies continued to stick to counter-attacking ploys. Flooding the box at every Red attack, Andy Carroll was as impressive in both boxes, whereas journeyman Wayne Routledge showcased his pace and clever movement when the Toon progressed up the pitch.

As the half wore on however, sloppy errors and slack misjudgements crept in to the Championship’s miserliest defence of last year; Coloccini et al may have got away with unforced errors in the second-tier but Ferguson’s men were quick to punish.

The opening goal was a result of hesitancy from Gutiérrez 20 yards from his own box. Antonio Valencia intercepted and Paul Scholes provided the killer assist. Left-back Jose Enrique was powerless, toeing the ball further in the path of an emphatic Berbatov, who lashed in for his second of the season.

The wily Bulgarian, a Newcastle fan as a child, idolised Toon hero Alan Shearer and his finish was taken with the aplomb befitting of the Geordie no. 9. For Paul Scholes this was the start of an imperious display of passing pageantry.

The consummate professional, performances such as these are nothing short of a privilege to watch from the 36 year old. The chalkboard of his 104 passes on the night was the footballing equivalent of a Jackson Pollock produced by the foot of this old master. Scholes’ vision scanned the grass canvas filling it with unbounded majesty. Broad strokes of colour swept forth to every angle of the pitch along with skilful intricacy and bursts of acceleration.

The highlights are too many to mention but one raking 60-yard ball drilled from the half-way line to Valencia elicited stadium-wide applause. The Ecuadorian failed to control the delivery, probably not expecting to receive possession given the impossibility of executing a pass of such speed and precision.

Moments later, the no. 18 crunched in late on Kevin Nolan. Appalling tackling have become as synonymous with Scholes as his ability to dictate the pace of a game (Scholes is the most booked player in Champions League history), but on this occasion, it was the beauty not the beast of the Janus-faced Ginger that triumphed.

Such was the superiority of this midfield spectacle that you couldn’t blame Scholes for showing frustration at apprentices such as Hernandez who on occasion failed to make the most of his defence-splitting passes. A la Rubens in his Antwerp studio, this was not merely a lesson for the opposition, but for all and sundry on how to apply paint like a great.  And it was the arrival of fellow evergreen Ryan Giggs that provided the game’s moment of perfect synchronicity.

Receiving the ball in acres of room, Scholes instinctively pinged the sweetest of passes to the box for Ryan Giggs to strike a first time volley into the ground and across Steve Harper’s net. The pair, who have a combined age of 71, made a mockery of angles in a passage that was reminiscent of a seniors’ exhibition match. Giggs maintains his record of appearing and scoring in every Premiership season since the League’s inception.

The ability of English football’s most feted players to continue delight their fans  with their art must be credited to the country’s most decorated manager. After the game, Ferguson commented on Scholes saying:

“anyone who gets to that age and retains that appetite is blessed with something special.”

But it is the Scot who plays a large part as the conservationist, overseeing the restoration and maintenance of these timeless masterpiece players.

How Fabio Capello must be wishing that it was this Mancunian legend and not the redundant Beckham that decided to over-stay his international welcome.