Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United are ready to pile the pressure on Premier League leaders Chelsea after sweeping to a 3-0 victory over Newcastle at St James’ Park.
Early goals from defenders Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra plus a stunning late strike from England midfielder Tom Cleverley were enough to secure a deserved victory for Ferguson’s side on Sunday.
It means United climb above defending champions Manchester City on goal difference, four points behind leaders Chelsea as the Premier League goes into the international break.
After two league defeats in the early stages of the campaign cast doubt on their title credentials, this emphatic display had Ferguson in upbeat mood.
“That’s the best we’ve played this season, especially the first 20 minutes. But I wouldn’t have had any money on either of Patrice or Jonny scoring!” he said.
“We were really on top of our game in terms of concentration and determination – all the things you want to see. There is pressure even at this stage of the season and you don’t want to fall too far behind.
“If we hadn’t won today we’d have been seven points behind Chelsea so it’s an important win.”
Wayne Rooney was instrumental in the win, sending over the corners that produced United’s first two goals, and the England forward said: “It is a huge result. This is probably one of the hardest games of the season, but we came here, defended brilliantly and scored three goals so overall we fully deserved the victory.
“Our focus was the key. Certainly in the first six games of the season, we haven’t defended well enough.
“That isn’t just the back four, that’s the whole team. Today we were brilliant. Newcastle are a big team, a physical team and we knew we had to defend our box really well.
“We managed to do that and score three goals. There was a focus about us and we need to continue to do that for the rest of the season if we’re going to be successful.”
Rooney remains without a goal so far this season, in part down to a lengthy injury lay-off. He added: “I’m not at all anxious (about scoring my first goal), we’ve got players who can score goals for us other than myself.
“I’m not concerned, if it comes, it comes. As long as we’re winning I’m not really concerned about that.”
The only black cloud on the horizon for United is a potential ban for Robin van Persie if the Football Association take action over his alleged elbow on Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye.
The FA will await Howard Webb’s report before deciding whether to take any action following the alleged incident late in the match.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew urged the FA to scrutinise the actions of van Persie, who has history with the Tyneside club following an angry confrontation with goalkeeper Tim Krul last season when playing for Arsenal.
The sanction for violent conduct, should it be proved in this case, is normally a three-game ban. Should Webb reveal he saw the coming together with France midfielder Cabaye and decided to take no action, that is likely to be the end of the matter.
If, however, the World Cup final referee confirms that he failed to see the incident, the FA is likely to review footage of the clash which came in a bad-tempered contest where the sides shared eight bookings.
“He’s looked at Yohan and he’s elbowed him,” Pardew insisted in the wake of only a second defeat in 12 games for his side this season.
“It needs to be looked at. There’s a bit of history last year and Robin got caught up with it. It was a bit unsavoury.
“Yohan wouldn’t have gone down if he hadn’t done something. I’ve seen it again and he’s looked at him and put his elbow in there. It’s up to the FA to look at, not me.”