Alan Pardew was unable to lead his Newcastle United side to a repeat of their heroics of last season at Old Trafford when they took the three points with a 0-1 win over Manchester United, then under David Moyes.
Last December David Moyes was the manager of Manchester United. Last December Yohan Cabaye was the goalscoring leader of Newcastle United. Last December Newcastle won 1-0 at Old Trafford.
Yesterday, last December felt a different era.
A year is a long time in football, of course, but normal service has been restored. These two northern Uniteds have resumed the roles allotted them.
Then Newcastle were upstart victors, winning a league game at Old Trafford for the first time in 41 years. Then the hosts were victims who had lost at home to Everton three days earlier – for the first time in 21 years. Moyes was making the wrong kind of history.
But as of the 36th minute yesterday, when Wayne Rooney guided in the second, Newcastle’s record was being rewritten to one league win at Old Trafford in 42 years. Manchester United were not great, but there was no way Newcastle were coming back from 2-0 down.
Such predictability is an achievement of sorts. United have now won seven of their last eight matches and, while it would be an exaggeration to say they are electrifying supporters with that run, there is something coming together under Louis van Gaal.
Each club is a consequence of its ownership and strategy. Old Trafford has reacted to the blip – they hope – of last season with ambitious and expensive recruitment. Ultimately, it may not work. But Old Trafford has made a statement of intent.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew spoke of missing nine senior players. But none is missed like Cabaye. Newcastle’s season collapsed after his sale to Paris Saint-Germain in January and there was no Loïc Rémy or Mathieu Debuchy either yesterday. Both played last December. This also amounts to a statement.
With Papiss Cissé left on the bench, there was a full Premier League debut for Adam Armstrong, one of five locals in the Newcastle starting XI.
Newcastle have now lost four consecutive matches, four in 13 days. While there was no mass dissent from the travelling thousands, this run has taken Pardew back to the land of volatility he frequently inhabits on Tyneside. Reflecting on 2014 as a whole, Pardew did not camouflage some serious issues.
“It’s been a difficult year,” he said. “We were well short in the last window and we didn’t replace Cabaye.” It was the only time Yohan Cabaye was mentioned yesterday, but, like David Moyes for other reasons, he has not been forgotten.