Manchester United – When Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney Assist

Somehow, it became 3-0. Manchester United didn’t play too well, but were spot on with their set pieces. One from Robin van Persie, finding Jonny Evans with a rare goal and one from Wayne Rooney, finding Patrice Evra for a rare goal. No need for midfield dominance or some fantastic attacking. Just being clinical upfront and efficient down back. The way Ferguson likes it.

Because United can take and look for all the compliments they want – great football for one half against Tottenham got them nowhere, just feeling better about themselves after a loss. Staying close to Chelsea and on part with Manchester City takes more of a grittier, not so impressive despite the scoreline win, which is pretty much United’s expertise.

It’s strange – we played such good football and made a lot of good openings, but we scored from two set-pieces, which is unusual for us, so we will take it, anyway. (Alex Ferguson).

Ferguson is still trying to sell the world of some beautiful game United play. Truth is, it has happened for about two halves this season. The rest has just been about either sloppy defending or one of their players showing some individual skill and making the most of a situation. Once again, in the opening 19 minutes against Newcastle, it had a lot more to do with great set piece skills and poor Newcastle defending (Alan Pardew now has 8 years to fix that).

The third goal was Tom Cleverley trying to cross instead of score, but when things go your way, they always go a bit more United’s way. Having Howard Webb on the pitch, missing Robin van Persie elbowing Yohan Cabaye (a feud that goes back to last year), never hurts when you’re Manchester United.

Wayne Rooney and Van Persie, the centre of the United attacking universe, didn’t have a great game. The no real-wingers approach by Alex Ferguson led to somewhat of a predictable attack, congested and slow to react and read the defense, not the most complicated or clever in the world, far too often. Newcastle had that big opportunity that could have brought them back into the match at a certain point, but everything that went well for them last season just isn’t happening early on in 2012-2013.

For once, the United defense looked solid and strong against a very physical striking duo of Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba. No touch of clever, of ingenuity is easier to handle, and Newcastle, who relied on both Hatem Ben Arfa and Cabaye to provide something more than long balls and predictable crosses, were far from impressive and enforcing as they were last season against the cautious Red Devils.

Set pieces and poor defending won’t come through for Manchester United each time, but it’s keeping them floating high for now. Ferguson doesn’t have his wing play, the way he likes it and his attacking style so desperately needs to function, so he’s improvising for now. Luckily, having players like Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, able to do more than just anchor an offense as central strikers, comes in handy, at least until Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young start playing like they know and should.

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