After leading 2-0, the hosts managed to claw their way back into the contest and level at 2-2. When Rooney smashed home his second of the day in the 79th minute, the points seemed to be heading back to Old Trafford, but a deflected strike from Paul Dummett in the 90th minute made it 3-3 and salvaged a point for the Magpies.
Although he netted a brace and bagged an assist, the captain was far from happy when reflecting on the game, per Luke Gardener of the Daily Star:
I think they were silly goals to concede on our behalf and they were avoidable. They have cost us two points so we're disappointed.
We can't keep going on conceding three goals every game so we have to work on that and create the chances without giving goals away. You can score as many goals as you want, but if you keep conceding goals then it's a problem.
We have to keep trying to get that balance right and keep creating chances, scoring goals and keeping them out.
It’s an unfamiliar scenario for United this season under the tutelage of Louis van Gaal. After all, for much of the campaign Rooney and his fellow forwards have toiled.
Granted, much of their ineffectiveness is due to the manager and the style in which he decides to set the team up. But the captain, in particular, has been sluggish in possession and devoid of the mercurial spark that made him such an enthralling player to watch during the course of the past decade.
As WhoScored.com noted here, although Rooney has started 2016 with a bang, this recent run of goals has been a long time coming:
Wayne Rooney: Has now scored as many goals (4) in his last 3 apps for Manchester United as he had in his previous 18 #mufc— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 12, 2016
To criticise the defence for conceding “silly goals” seems harsh too. Let's not forget, United have the fourth best defensive record in the Premier League, arguably the best goalkeeper in the division in David De Gea and marshaling the back four, a much-improved Chris Smalling.
Granted, the latter wasn’t up to his usual standards in the frantic clash against Newcastle, but as Bleacher Report’s Graham Ruthven noted, the performance was a rare blip in what’s been a fine campaign for Smalling:
Just because Chris Smalling had a shocker tonight doesn't mean he hasn't had a generally excellent season.— Graham Ruthven (@grahamruthven) January 12, 2016
What United lack at the moment is balance, as Rooney noted. This match was hugely entertaining, bristling with attacking football and contained some stunning goals.
However, there have been times this campaign, especially at Old Trafford, when the Red Devils have been soporific due to their ponderous passing football.
Indeed, Bleacher Report’s Rob Blanchette still remains unconvinced by United’s style in the wake of the 3-3 draw with Newcastle:
For those who thought we attacked Newcastle, we had 4 shots on target. Four. Only four. Yes we scored. So what? It was tripe football. #MUFC— Rob B. (@_Rob_B) January 13, 2016
Will Manchester United finish in the Premier League's top four this season?
That direction needs to come from the manager. Van Gaal possesses a variety of players in his squad, some suited to fast, direct football and others built for meticulous probing of the opposition with inventive passing. But the Dutchman seems caught between these two ways of playing at the moment and the end result isn't good.
If Tottenham Hotspur, who occupy currently fourth place, were to triumph against Leicester City on Wednesday evening they’d move five points clear of United in the race for a Champions League spot. If that gap grows much more, irrespective of the team’s performances, it’s tough to see Van Gaal lasting much longer.