Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and an own goal from Phil Jones ensured Newcastle started the new year with an incredible win, as they saw off the reigning champions 3-0 at St James’ Park. The performance from the Geordies was the total opposite from the lacklustre display they put on at Anfield, and they looked like the champions on this showing, rather than the men in red. The eleven men on the pitch wearing black and white were incredible, showing unbelievable character and hunger to reach almost every ball before their Mancunian compatriots. In truth, Man United never came close to showing the form that they did when they recorded successive 5-0 triumphs over Fulham and Wigan. Alan Pardew decided to recall Shola Ameobi to the starting line-up in place of Leon Best, who dropped to the bench along with Hatem Ben Arfa. The more physical prowess of Ameobi proved a good call by the Magpies boss, as the elder of the two Ameobi brothers tormented Phil Jones throughout the course of the game. The first half flew by at a pace comparable to the gale-force winds that blustered across St James’ Park, with tackles flying in and being won more often than not by a black and white shirt. Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote dominated the midfield battle and Ferguson’s side couldn’t get a foothold on the game. Davide Santon, recalled to the team at left-back, also caught the eye with a few surging runs from defence, only being halted by some last-ditch defending. The visitors were far from their best, with the recalled Wayne Rooney failing to get on the ball and create anything of note. The closest they came to breaching the resolute Geordie defence was when Dimitar Berbatov’s header took a deflection and trickled onto Krul’s post, only to go behind for a goal kick. Demba Ba was again causing trouble for United’s defence too, and could have had a penalty when he tangled with Rio Ferdinand. The Senegal international was first to a through ball and as he turned away from the England defender, Ferdinand’s legs clipped Ba and sent him sprawling to the floor. Referee Howard Webb, so infamous for his Manchester-loving whistle blowing, waved away protests as replays seemed to show it should have been a spot kick. However, with Ba in the form he is in, you simply can’t deny him for long. Ten minutes after the failed penalty shout, Ba had his 15th goal of the season. Tim Krul’s free-kick was flicked on by Ameobi and Ba reacted first to expertly hook a volley back across goal and into Anders Lindegaard’s far corner. With the Magpies attempting to hold onto a one-goal lead going into the second half, Pardew had to make the choice whether to stick or twist. He twisted…and soon had his reward. Ba’s surging run was brought to an end by a cynical foul by Phil Jones, who was booked for the tackle, and gave Newcastle a free-kick 30 yards from goal. With Taylor going close in the first half from a similar range, this time it was Cabaye who demanded authority over the chance, and to some effect. The France international curled a sumptuous effort over the wall and in off the crossbar to give Newcastle a two-goal lead, leaving Lindegaard with no chance. United were in danger of losing successive league games for the first time in years, and Ferguson responded by throwing on both Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck. But the reigning champions never looked like creating anything to threaten Krul and despite a 15-minute period of pressure, the Newcastle door never looked like being broken down. The closest they came was during that period of pressure when Nani caused problems down the right hand side and centred for Rooney, but the England striker’s volley was cleared off the line by Simpson. It was the second time this season that Danny Simpson had brilliantly denied Man United a certain goal, and it would have been made all the more sweet with it being on his 25th birthday against his former employers. As Newcastle made moves to shore up the game, bringing on James Perch and Leon Best, it was clear Pardew and co. were expecting a storm from the champions, but nothing came. Instead, Man United looked tired and well below their scintillating best, and when Rooney was taken off early, it only lifted the Geordie hopes once more. The home side would obviously have settled for a 2-0 win, however there was one more twist in the tale when Krul’s deep free-kick was disastrously turned beyond Lindegaard by the confused Phil Jones. The goal was a cherry on top of the cake for Newcastle, and they duly held on for an invaluable three points.