Newcastle fans wonder why Sir Alex Ferguson did not go for the Dutchman last summer when Edwin van der Sar retired but the way he rode his luck with an early fumble suggested he is far from being the finished article.
There is nothing fancy about the former Watford centre-half whose no-nonsense approach and aerial skills complement his captain perfectly.
He is a Jack of all trades and a master of none but he still held his own on the right side of the Newcastle midfield and always threatens at set-pieces.
Coming up against his former club on his 25th birthday seemed to bring the best out of the Manchester United old boy who raised his game to deal with the threat posed by the champions. Made a superb block on the line from Rooney's effort.
The Italian full-back showed he has what it takes to thrive in the cut and thrust of English football with a tenacious display to keep the usually dangerous Nani subdued and looked lively in attack.
Cool, calm and collected, the Toon skipper hardly put a foot wrong as he showed why his employers are so keen for him to sign a new deal this month to ward off rumoured Liverpool interest.
The Ivory Coast international has been linked with a January move to Old Trafford and another typically combative performance is bound to fuel speculation that he could head over the Pennines.
The French international gave Newcastle the upper hand in the crucial midfield exchanges and an all-singing, all-dancing display capped by a brilliant free-kick demonstrated why many of his compatriots expected him to join Arsenal last summer.
He never gave an inch in his fascinating duel with Antonio Valencia in a typically industrious performance from the Argentine winger.
There is no stopping the Senegalese striker and as parting gifts go, his cracking goal was the perfect way to say farewell to Newcastle fans before the African Nations Cup will take some beating.
He worked his socks off alongside Ba to set up his colleague's goal and show Hatem Ben Arfa how it's done with a non-stop display to keep the United defence busy.
The Dane vindicated Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to drop David De Gea with a commanding performance with a solid performance but there was nothing he could do about the Newcastle goals.
Sam Allardyce dubbed him the new John Terry during his Blackburn days but this was not the performance of a centre-half and he was at fault for both Newcastle goals as he was run ragged by the Toon attack before nodding in his own goal.
It is as if the recent controversies surrounding his bust-up with Luis Suarez have taken their toll because the United captain was not his normal self.
Anyone that reckons the England international is past his best would have proved right because he failed to take command of a situation he use to relish when faced with Ba and his team paid dearly.
He continues to look the part at full-back and gave Gutierrez as good as he got but did not get the chance to bolster the attack enough due to Gutierrez's presence.
This was a night to forget for Giggs who was mercilessly taunted by Newcastle fans and was left chasing shadows in midfield.
The South Korean is regarded as a big-game player but even though this is one of the biggest stages in English football, the contest largely bypassed him.
The midfielder had a chance to show the locals what they have missed since Newcastle let him slip through their fingers as a schoolboy but he was unable to match the energy levels of Cabaye and Tiote.
He carried on where he left off against Blackburn and that was bad news for United because one of the club’s most exhilarating players was rendered ineffective.
The Bulgarian went close to opening the scoring when his header shaved a post with Krul beaten but after a promising opening he hardly got a look-in and went off early in the second half.
The stage was set for Rooney to get back into Sir Alex Ferguson’s good books following their recent dispute but after a bright start he struggled to make an impact and was substituted late on.
- 1 S. Harper
Did his bit to make the game safe.
Sent on for a late cameo against his old club and to give the Toon Army a chance to give Demba Ba a standing ovation.
- 29 H. Vučkič
- 10 H. Ben Arfa
- 28 Sammy Ameobi
Sent on to make life miserable for the United defence after Ameobi had run his socks off.
- 1 De Gea
- 21 Rafael
He came on as part of a damage limitation exercise in place on Rooney late on.
- 53 J. Lingard
- 42 P. Pogba
Did not get a chance to make a difference,
Welbeck must hate the Sports Direct Arena because the last time he was here Sunderland suffered a 5-1 defeat and this one must hurt just as much as he failed to make an impact as a second-half substitute.