United produced an imperious second-half performance against a beleaguered Newcastle to move top of the Premier League on Saturday night, Cristiano Ronaldo heading up a thumping 6-0 victory with his first hat-trick for the Reds.
Astonishingly, all of United's goals came in a second-half blitz. Carlos Tevez (2) and Rio Ferdinand also got in on the act in a game the Reds dominated from start to finish. Remarkably, it could have been even more convincing. Clear-cut opportunities ran comfortably into double figures, and so too could the scoreline.
Newcastle arrived in Manchester in the midst of uncertainty. The departure of Sam Allardyce after a five-match run without a win was hardly the best preparation three days before a trip to Old Trafford. And it showed.
United, buoyed by the news of Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham earlier in the day, were in mood to take mercy on the visitors. And with a place atop the Premier League up for grabs, the Reds started at a tempo Newcastle struggled to cope with.
Wayne Rooney, who could have scored four in the first 15 minutes, had two 25-yard shots saved by Shay Given early on. The first arrived after Michael Carrick’s cutting through-ball, but Rooney’s shot was high over the bar. Given was proving Wayne's nemesis as twice either side of the 15-minute mark the Newcastle goalkeeper denied him. The Reds striker cut inside from the left to hit a low, skidding drive that forced Given to turn the ball behind for a corner, before the Irishman proved equal to a fizzing Rooney volley from Carrick’s wonderful, arced pass.
After 27 minutes Ronaldo set a course through the heart of Newcastle’s defence. He skipped past two players and took on Steven Taylor, but the Magpies defender left a leg out to bring Ronaldo down – as clear a penalty as you are likely to see. But Rob Styles was unmoved, as he was a minute later when Alan Smith bundled Ryan Giggs