Manchester United's miserable turn of the annum continued into 2012 itself as Newcastle United emulated Blackburn Rovers on New Year's Eve by putting three goals past the champions to inflict a damaging defeat.
Despite the return of Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, the Reds were second best at the Sports Direct Arena where the Magpies scored in each half with exquisite strikes from Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye. The third and final nail wasn't quite in the same class - Phil Jones bundling an own goal past Anders Lindegaard, the keeper of a clean sheet in all of his previous league appearances.
Demba Ba was involved in two half-chances for Newcastle as the home side opened proceedings with a rapid tempo. First, the Senegal striker swung a boot at and missed Danny Simpson’s cross when any connection might have tested Lindegaard – shortly after, he laid the ball off for Yohan Cabaye to successfully let fly and find the gloves of the Reds’ diving Danish goalkeeper. Chiek Tiote, the Mohican-sporting Ivorian, also brought a straightforward save from Lindegaard with his early strike from distance.
At the opposite end, Tim Krul – a defiant obstacle in the sides’ 1-1 draw at Old Trafford six weeks ago – parried an effort from Nani and was perhaps lucky to gather the ball when the rebound proved too high to present Rooney with a shooting chance. Patrice Evra set up Nani for that first Reds attempt and he was again the supply line when Dimitar Berbatov’s header, via an unspotted deflection off Davide Santon, struck the base of Krul’s right-hand post.
Rooney’s first real chance to make positive headlines came with a direct free-kick, awarded against Cabaye for handball, but his setpiece was diverted wide by Tiote in the wall.