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Cabaye's strike ends 40 years of Old Trafford hurt
Full-time: Manchester United 0 Newcastle United 1
FEBRUARY 1972. Edward Heath declared a state of emergency as the coal miners' strike continued. The British Parliament formally ratified a treaty for entry into the European Community. T Rex were number one with “Telegram Sam”.
And at Old Trafford, John Tudor and Stewart Barrowclough scored the goals that enabled Newcastle United to record a 2-0 win over Manchester United. They had no way of knowing it at the time, but a wait that would stretch more than four decades had begun.
Since that Saturday afternoon in the early 1970s, 32 different Newcastle sides had travelled to the red side of Manchester and left without a victory. Fourteen different managers had attempted to engineer a success, only to be thwarted, more often than not by the figure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
There were narrow misses along the way, most notably in 1998 when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hacked down Robert Lee in the closing stages of a goalless draw as the Newcastle midfielder raced clean through on goal, but prior to Saturday, Old Trafford remained the most unprofitable of hunting grounds for the Magpies.
Not any more. When Yohan Cabaye steered a 61st-minute strike past David De Gea, with the aid of a deflection off Nemanja Vidic, Newcastle's longest-running hoodoo was finally at an end.
The league table confirms this is anything but a vintage Manchester United side, and with David Moyes sifting through the wreckage of his club's first back-to-back home league defeats since 2002, it is becoming increasingly hard to see how the reigning champions will finish in the top four come May, let alone make a meaningful attempt to retain their title.
But that should not detract from the enormity of Newcastle's achievement. There have been plenty of average Manchester United sides in the last four decades, yet it took the current crop of players, under the astute leadership of Alan Pardew, to turn the dream of victory into a reality.
“We feel very happy,” said Cabaye, who like all of his team-mates, had not even been born when Newcastle last won at Old Trafford. “The manager told us before the game that the club had not won here for more than 40 years.
“Forty years is a very long time, a lifetime in football really. It has been a long time, so everyone is very happy to have done it now, and I'm delighted to have scored the winner.
“It is always very hard to play at Old Trafford against Manchester United, even if they have not been getting the results they expect. After Swansea, we just wanted to come back as a solid team. A win here means we have done much more than that.”
The 3,000 travelling supporters who continued to sing themselves hoarse for more than 20 minutes after the final whistle would no doubt concur, and the most remarkable thing about Newcastle's long-awaited victory was its emphatic nature.
This was no smash-and-grab raid, no undeserved success snatched from the jaws of defeat. True, there was an element of fortune, with Vurnon Anita going unpunished despite handling the ball on the line when the scores were level. Newcastle's Dutch midfielder knew very little about his infringement, with the ball rebounding onto his arm after Patrice Evra directed a header against the post, but had referee Andre Marriner awarded a penalty, Anita would almost certainly have been sent off.
That moment aside, though, Newcastle were the dominant side throughout, defending resolutely, denying Manchester United's players any time or space in midfield, and attacking with poise and purpose when the opportunity allowed.
Cabaye's third goal of the season gave them something to hold on to, and unlike on previous occasions at the same ground, this time around there was to be no grandstand finale from the hosts. Instead, Newcastle's players played out the final stages with a composure that bordered on merited arrogance.
“If we were going to do it, then that's the way to do it,” said Pardew. “We have been here three times under my stewardship, and I thought we deserved to win at least one of them.
“It's a bloody long time (41 years), and sometimes when you get victories of this manner, it's difficult to digest straight away. But we were terrific, and this result is above all the others from this season.”
Pardew deserves considerable credit for the success, as his team selection and tactics played a major role in the victory. By recalling Anita ahead of Shola Ameobi, he was able to pack out the midfield and ensure dominance in the area of the pitch that is traditionally Manchester United's greatest strength, but which has evolved into a key weakness since the departure of Ferguson.
Cheik Tiote set the tone of Newcastle's display from the off, snapping into three contested challenges in the opening ten minutes, and coming out on top of all of them. The Ivorian was immense throughout, with Anita proving a perfect midfield foil as he closed down enthusiastically and calmly retained the ball in tight situations.
Generally a manager who likes his side to get forward quickly, Pardew preached patience and the importance of possession, and his instructions were carried out to the letter.
Further back, Newcastle defended superbly, with Mike Williamson maintaining his remarkable run of form as he denied Robin van Persie the merest sniff of a chance in the box, and Mathieu Debuchy producing arguably his best display in a Newcastle shirt as he covered behind his centre-halves to sweep up anything delivered into a dangerous area.
“We came with a different style,” said Pardew. “We needed to retain possession and Vurnon was brought in to maybe control the midfield area. I was really pleased that kind of worked out for us. We didn't give Man United too many options to get through us, and I felt the players worked the game plan really well.”
They still needed a goal though, and after Debuchy went close with two decent efforts in first-half stoppage time, Cabaye delivered shortly after the hour mark. Moussa Sissoko beat Evra to Tim Krul's long clearance, and after he cut the ball back into the box, Cabaye swept home.
“I don't know if the shot was going in,” said Cabaye. “The keeper came close to saving it, but I don't care whether the deflection made a difference or not.
“The goal ranks very highly with all the others I have scored. Just to have scored at Old Trafford is a fantastic feeling. I'm very happy to have done it. I scored against Liverpool at Anfield, and it's always fantastic to score at those kind of stadiums. But it's even better when the goal means you win the game.”
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