Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Rooney grabs a brace as United's impressive run continues against Newcastle

Louis van Gaal’s side are now unbeaten in their last eight games, winning seven of them.

WAYNE ROONEY SCORED twice as Manchester United rewarded manager Louis van Gaal’s decision to grant his players Christmas Day off by beating Newcastle United 3-1.

Rooney, relishing the deeper midfield role which he has been assigned recently, effectively decided the contest with two lethal finishes and set up a third goal for Robin van Persie in the second half.

But although United won for the 18th time in their last 21 Boxing Day outings, they were obliged to survive a spirited opening quarter to the match from Alan Pardew’s visitors.

Rooney settled nerves with an excellently worked 23rd-minute opener, but United had lived dangerously up to that point, despite enjoying a glut of possession.

The visitors looked dangerous on the counter-attack and United were fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty when Juan Mata appeared to clip the heels of Yoan Gouffran, sending the Newcastle man clattering to the ground.

Just six minutes later, United were indebted to the ever-impressive David de Gea as the Spanish goalkeeper flew to his right to keep out a magnificent 25-yard shot from Daryl Janmaat, who had been set up by Newcastle’s teenage debutant Adam Armstrong.

The 17-year-old Armstrong was an unwitting accomplice to the opening goal, showing brilliant pace to beat Paddy McNair but then wasting possession by shooting directly at the legs of a United defender.

Britain Soccer Premier League Falcao and Rooney combined superbly for United first goal. Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

It proved a costly decision by the teenager as Rooney broke upfield and squared the ball for Mata, who, in turn, launched an accurate pass into the area for Radamel Falcao.

The Colombian forward seemed poised to shoot from a tight angle, but instead squared the ball for Rooney to convert into a gaping goal.

Rooney doubled United’s lead after 36 minutes with another goal orchestrated by a magnificent Mata pass.

After Falcao won the ball back, Phil Jones found Mata, who waited for Rooney to arrive and slipped through a perfect assist for the England captain, who made no mistake with a clinical 12-yard finish.

Britain Soccer Premier League Rooney was a thorn in Newcastle's side all afternoon and swept home his second of the game after a fine pass from Juan Mata. Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images Jon Super / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

It did not take long for United to punish Newcastle further in the second half, with Rooney this time the provider.

He advanced, paused, and then lifted an inviting pass forward for Van Persie, who steered a header past the dive of Jak Alnwick.

The visitors’ consolation finally came, five minutes from time, after Jones needlessly tripped Jack Colback and substitute Papiss Cisse convincingly beat De Gea with a penalty into the top-right corner.

As it happened: Manchester United v Newcastle, Premier League

Brilliant Falcao assist helps Rooney open the scoring for United

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