Wayne Rooney kept up his excellent scoring record in games against Newcastle United by striking twice as the Magpies lost their fourth successive game in all competitions.

Rooney notched the first two goals of the afternoon after collecting Radamel Falcao’s pass and combining with Juan Mata, before Robin van Persie scored a third.

Papiss Cisse pulled one back from the penalty spot with three minutes left but Newcastle didn’t deserve anything in a game where they were outplayed by Louis van Gaal’s confident side.

Alan Pardew named a rather confusing starting line-up, with Vurnon Anita making his first appearance in months in central midfield, while 17-year-old Adam Armstrong made his first ever senior start for Newcastle in an unfamiliar wide position.

Armstrong was a willing runner though, and was the leader of a counter-attack that resulted in Ayoze Perez miscuing an acrobatic effort after the teenager’s cross.

Newcastle’s bright start might have brought them a penalty, too. Yoan Gouffran was chasing a ball into the box when Mata ran across the back of his legs, sending the Frenchman to the turf. Referee Mike Jones was in no mood to award Newcastle a late Christmas present though and waved play on.

Daryl Janmaat also smashed a good effort towards goal, only for in-form goalkeeper David De Gea to beat it away.

After the home side survived the scare, they started to get on top. 13 minutes after they might have went behind, Rooney struck to give van Gaal’s men the lead.

The England man – playing in a new-found centre midfield role – got forward to tap home Falcao’s excellent sliding pass after Mata had clipped a ball towards the Colombian.

The on-loan Monaco forward became a central figure in the game and was heavily involved in the build up to the second goal. Falcao dispossessed Ayoze Perez with a tough tackle in a good area, allowing Mata to run away from Paul Dummett. The Spaniard threaded a pass through to the unmarked Rooney and the 28-year-old stroked home his ninth league goal of the season to all but end the contest before half-time.

Eight minutes after the break, Man Utd had the points wrapped up. Rooney was again involved, this time as provider, when he lofted a superb cross onto the head of van Persie, who headed expertly past Jak Alnwick.

With a bench consisting of few attacking options, Pardew threw on Remy Cabella and Papiss Cisse but it was always going to be too late for any kind of comeback.

The visitors did get on the scoresheet though, when Phil Jones left a leg dangling in the box and brought down Colback to give Newcastle the penalty they might have had 80 minutes earlier.

Cisse stepped up to dispatch an excellent penalty but it was scant consolation for Newcastle, who have yet to win a game in December and now sit in tenth place in the Premier League table.