Manchester United began the 2010-2011 English Premier League with confidence, generally controlling and out-passing newly promoted Newcastle United at Old Trafford Monday.
Paul Scholes enjoyed some sort of renaissance, as he does against poor opposing midfields. Afforded space, he sprayed driven passes willy-nilly to every corner, enabling United to overcome a tepid opening and score thrice throughout the 90.
Dimitar Berbatov scored the opener after Scholes fed him in. The Bulgarian rifled home as you should at a tight angle, low-and-far into the bottom corner, affording an exhale from Old Trafford on 33 minutes.
United's best player last season scored just before the break to make it two-nil, Darren Fletcher turning in Patty Evra's driven cross after it pinballed into the six-yard box.
United newboy and Mexican superstar Javier Hernandez arrived shortly after the break in lieu of a grumpy and off-form Wayne Rooney. United camped out in the Tyneside for much of the half.
On 85 minutes, two United oldboys combined when Scholes chipped cross-field for Giggs to volley home from 18 yards. It was a champagne finish from an aging player who will hopefully be relied on less this season than last.
Start to finish
With a one-match sample size, it's not impossible to prophet good things for United this season, though there are still a lot of question marks throughout the side.
United still don't have a natural left-winger. Letting Tosic leave in the summer means another year of Nani's up-and-downs, and shoe-horning Giggs, Wellbeck, or worse into the role at times.
Manager Alex Ferguson is likely to show a disinclination to sit Rooney in favor of Hernandez, someone—so far—much more sprightly, probably choosing instead to forcedly partner the two when Berbatov inevitably is scape-goated sooner than later.
Apparently van der Sar is going to be #1 in red for yet another season until Ben Amos assumes the reigns; fair enough. Players like Vidic and Jonny Evans have the format to rebound after disappointing seasons last year.
If Darren Fletcher improves again this year, ostensibly becoming the best central-midfielder in England, United's success has a base upon which to rise.
Paul Scholes' ability to stay healthy will be crucial if United fans are to be spared seeing Carrick feature prominently. But beyond Fletcher, Scholes, Nani and Valencia, United don't have great depth in the midfield, which—if anything—could be the harbinger for ultimate defeat this year.
Financially shackled to buy younger replacements, United have relied on Scholes and Giggs for too long already. They'll each have a role to play this season, particularly Scholes, but if Ferguson expects either to feature consistently in a starting eleven throughout the season, then it may just be a long one.