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Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 14:12 GMT
Man Utd back on song
Paul Scholes (hidden) puts Man Utd ahead
Paul Scholes (hidden) puts Man Utd ahead
Manchester United 5-3 Newcastle

Manchester United delivered an emphatic warning that reports of their demise may be exaggerated with an emphatic dismissal of Newcastle United.

Ruud van Nistelrooy's hat-trick underlined the lingering threat still posed to their Premiership rivals by Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

Scholes celebrates with Van Nistelrooy
Scholes celebrates with Van Nistelrooy

But Ferguson will still have had reservations in victory - namely more uncertainty from goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and a nervous defensive display.

The Scot, however, will have been delighted to see his under-fire team respond in style to growing criticism of their Old Trafford empire.

Paul Scholes set them on their way early on - only for Olivier Bernard's speculative cross to embarrass Barthez to hand Newcastle an equaliser.


Overall, it was one of our most effective performances of the season
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

But Van Nistelrooy struck twice before the interval to put Manchester United in command.

And even though Alan Shearer's thundering free-kick - his 100th Premiership goal for the club - threw Newcastle a lifeline, Van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer restored the home side's supremacy.

Craig Bellamy's goal created late anxiety, but Manchester United were worthy winners.

Manchester United opened in fluent fashion, and it was no surprise when they went ahead after 24 minutes, Scholes rounding off good work by Solskjaer with a rousing finish.

Newcastle had barely posed a threat, but they were gifted an equaliser 10 minutes later as Barthez did a passable David Seaman impersonation to let Bernard's cross drift in at the far post.


I'm sure anybody sitting at home will have been thoroughly entertained - unfortunately I'm in the dug-out with a black and white shirt on
Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson

It stung Manchester United into action, Van Nistelrooy heading home from Mickael Silvestre's deflected cross three minutes later, and then tapping home as Diego Forlan's shot flew across the face of goal.

Shearer again gave the Magpies hope five minutes after the interval, reaching his century of top flight goals for Newcastle with a 25-yard free-kick that tore into the top corner past a startled Barthez.

But once more Newcastle saw their hopes snuffed out within seconds as Van Nistelrooy completed his hat-trick with a close-range header from Forlan's cross.

Solskjaer celebrates his goal
Solskjaer is elated after his goal

Solskjaer added Manchester United's fifth after 54 minutes, racing on to Silvestre's long pass to beat Shay Given easily.

But Newcastle were furious the goal was allowed to stand, insisting the Norwegian had flattened Aaron Hughes in the build-up.

Sir Bobby Robson's side were not giving up, and were offered constant hope by shoddy defending from injury-hit Manchester United.

They scored a third with 17 minutes left after Bellamy was left unmarked only six yards out to send a header trickling past Barthez.

It set up an anxious finale for Ferguson, made worse when Laurent Blanc limped off through injury - but they emerged unscathed.


Man Utd: Barthez, O'Shea, Brown, Blanc (Roche 69), Silvestre, Solskjaer, Scholes, Fortune, Giggs, Forlan (Veron 79), van Nistelrooy (Richardson 64).

Subs Not Used: Ricardo, Chadwick.

Booked: Solskjaer, van Nistelrooy.

Goals: Scholes 25, van Nistelrooy 38, 45, 53, Solskjaer 55.

Newcastle: Given, Griffin, Dabizas, O'Brien, Hughes, Jenas, Dyer, Speed, Bernard (Solano 72), Shearer, Bellamy.

Subs Not Used: Elliott, Acuna, Harper, Ameobi.

Booked: Speed, Dabizas.

Goals: Bernard 35, Shearer 52, Bellamy 75.

Attendance: 67,619.

Referee: S Dunn (Avon).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Mike Ingham
"In the Champions League errors will be exploited"
Newcastle boss Sir Bobby Robson
"Some poor defending cost us the game"
Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
"Today was confirmation of our scoring ability"
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