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At the other end, Sir Alex’s men were restricted to speculative shots from distance. Smith bravely blocked from O’Shea while neither Nani nor Rooney could bend free-kicks around the Newcastle wall. Worryingly for the vocal visiting support, though, Newcastle's stubborn defending appeared to be accompanied by a desire to self-destruct, as James Perch and Fabricio Coloccini both gifted possession to the Reds in dangerous areas of the pitch. But Sir Alex's men did themselves no favours, either: Scholes, masterful for most of the night, uncharacteristically picked the wrong pass when United had the Magpies on the back foot before Rooney unwittingly nicked a volley off Berbatov's toes and then blasted over from 12 yards.
United's perseverance and patience paid off on 33 minutes, though, when Berbatov latched onto Scholes' pass to fire the Reds into the lead. Jose Enrique managed the merest of touches on Scholes' defence-splitting ball but couldn't divert it away from Berbatov, who finished low and hard into the far corner.
The visitors hinted at an immediate equaliser but United soon took the reins again, monopolising possession and asserting dominance. And it wasn't long before the second goal arrived. Good link-up play from Nani and Evra on the left flank released the Frenchman into the penalty area. From there, his drilled cross bounced off Rooney and up, tantalisingly, for Fletcher to hit on the spin and send the Reds into the break with a deserved two-goal cushion.
The interval provided welcome respite for the visitors, but within minutes of the restart Sir Alex's men were terrorising the Newcastle back four again. In fact, the hosts could easily have been four goals to the good by the hour mark. Scholes was denied what looked a decent shout for a penalty under a rash challenge by Coloccini before a delicious move involving five