After overcoming a difficult fixture on paper against Newcastle by comfortably disposing of the Magpies, Manchester United are now ahead of their rivals in the Premier League table. Now they set about dislodging Chelsea as league leaders- and City as champions. Can they do it?

The performance of Tom Cleverley will draw praise from many as the young England midfielder- included in Roy Hodgson's squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Poland- rightly earned the plaudits for a sensational and mature display in the United midfield. Recently criticised for poor finishing and told to improve his goalscoring record, the 23-year old followed up a goal against the Magpies in the Capital One Cup last month with a spectacular curling effort from distance. But did he mean it- well the midfielder himself thinks so. "I meant to put it in the far corner," he told reporters afterwards.

He hassled and harried the Newcastle midfield throughout the game while certain aspects of his game have definitively improved since breaking into the Red Devils first-team such as knowing when to press, close down and get a foot in to tackle. His role in the 4-2-3-1, sitting behind with Michael Carrick, suited him. Cleverley demonstrated great energy on the attack and knew when to go forward and hold his position which is a key concept to grasp. His ability on the ball is unquestionable and he certainly deserves the accolades. If this form continues, then his place in the United and England team will be under no threat whatsoever. Despite their being other contenders wearing red, he won my man of the match award hands down.

Even the ardent United fan would have been surprised by the way their team began the match. The brilliant start to the game paved the way for three vital away points courtesy of two goals in the opening fifteen minutes. Sir Alex Ferguson's men stormed out of the traps exuding confidence and enthusiasm. They showed a great level of determination to get the job done and made Newcastle's makeshift defence- consisting of a left-back (Santon) at right-back and a right-back (Perch) in central defence- look ordinary. Jonny Evans got clear of Demba Ba, not used to tracking players in his own penalty area, to head home the first on 8 minutes while Patrice Evra converted from Wayne Rooney's setpiece seven minutes later to give the visitors the ideal start.

Newcastle weathered the early storm and got their act together midway through the half and started to cause a few problems with goalkeeper David De Gea put under severe pressure from crosses and balls into the box and never looked convincing in dealing with the aerial threat. A perfect example was the game's most controversial moment when Ba got infront of the Spanish keeper from a Ferguson delivery and glanced against the post. Cisse followed up and the keeper pushed the ball onto the base of the inside post when it appeared to have at least partially crossed the line although there was no flag with play on being the verdict from the officials.

Television replays confirmed that the assistant referee- World Cup Final 2010 linesman Darren Cann- was absolutely spot on in making the call to not award a goal. As much as linesmen get scrutinised, they deserve the utmost credit when judging crucial split-second decisions such as this correctly. We have to remember that they do not get a second look and are expected to make an instantaneous reaction.

Whilst on the topic of officials, South Yorkshire referee Howard Webb took charge of his first United match since a 1-0 win for the Red Devils in the North East on the final day of the season at Sunderland where the title was cruelly stolen from their hands by their closest rivals. His style of officiating is quintessential to how a Premier League match of this magnitude should be overseen and everyone involved in the game knows that when he is in charge, there is a satisfaction that you know it will be handled well. He dished out eight yellow cards and with the exception of a tugged Cisse shirt, stamp by Tiote and elbow from Van Persie, dealt with the game appropriately.

All the post-match talk surrounded the two deadly strike duos on view in Papiss Demba Cisse and Premier League top goalscorer Demba Ba for Newcastle as well as Robin Van Persie, whose United career has started in the same vein as his Arsenal days ended with seven goals in seven games so far this campaign in all competitions, and Wayne Rooney- who had scored more times against Newcastle than against any other Premier League side. However, it was the United defence who stood out with former Sunderland loanee Jonny Evans- passed fit after recovering from a dead leg- and Patrice Evra- much maligned for his form in recent weeks- writing their own headlines with rare goals and a fine defensive display.

Another issue that arose from the game was the alleged elbow used by Robin Van Persie on Yohan Cabaye in the second half. The clash occurred when the United striker made contact with the French midfielder who delayed before hitting the deck although it was unseen by the officials with referee Howard Webb taking no action. Since the incident, Magpies boss Alan Pardew has urged the FA to charge the Dutch forward, saying: "He has looked at Yohan and elbowed him. There's a bit of history from last year and I don't know if Robin has been caught up in that. It was a bit unsavoury."

Before the season began, many tipped Newcastle to struggle with combining the demands of playing Europa League football on Thursday nights and Premier League matches on Sunday afternoons. Thus affecting their chances of building on last season's fantastic achievement of finishing fifth. However, in the early weeks of the new term, it appeared they have been able to cope which reflected in their record of just one defeat in their opening six league games- coming when they were forced to play on a Saturday teatime against Chelsea immediately after a trip to Greece against Atriminos. The Magpies lost 2-0.

Although against Manchester United, Newcastle looked tired, cagey and lethargic whilst not knowing what had hit them in the opening fifteen minutes. They had what is widely known as a European hangover- the first time we have seen this from Pardew's men this campaign and by no means the last. In the end, their laborious start cost them the game as they ended up being comprehensively beaten. Pardew made just four changes from the magnificent 3-0 victory over Bordeaux less than 72 hours previously which showed in the first half particularly against the Red Devils.

The discerning number of injuries in both camps has slightly disrupted the manager's thinking so far whereby the number of personnel changes made for each match has had an adverse effect. Newcastle were without their number one choice goalkeeper Tim Krul as well as defenders Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini whose level of consistency last season was outstanding and they are integral figures whose commitment to the football club has been top class. When they return, the Magpies will be better for it and have more options- something which they don't have at the moment.

The defence was patched up which was exemplified through the poor marking from the two setpieces for the first two United goals. Davide Santon has always played as a left-back during his time at St James Park and came through the ranks at Inter Milan in the same position while James Perch is a full-back by trade and Shane Ferguson, making his first Premier League start, is a midfielder by nature who loves to attack. Only Mike Williamson is a natural centre-back and is aware of the elementary aspects of the role.

On the other hand, Wayne Rooney was quick to hail the United back four- unchanged from the 2-1 midweek win against Romanian minnows CFR Cluj- after a much needed clean sheet and courageous performance up against two of the most athletic and powerful forwards in the division. "It's a great result. Everyone knows this is probably one of the hardest games of the season. We came here, defended brilliantly and fully deserved the victory. In the first six games of the season, we haven't defended well enough- not just the back four but the whole team. But today we were outstanding as a team especially the back four, played well against a physical team and got a clean sheet which is what we want."

Demba Ba had began the campaign like a steam train with a scoring double away to Everton triggering a flurry of goals in a short space of time while he also netted a brace in a 2-2 draw against Reading despite using an arm to control the ball before bundling in their late equaliser at the Madejski Stadium. The Senegalese had also netted in his previous two matches against the Red Devils including a controversial penalty infront of the Stretford End last November, therefore United fans had legitimate reasons to fear before kick-off. Although those fears soon evaporated as the forward endured a profligate and misfiring day infront of goal.

Following a disappointing first half showing last weekend, United's defensive lapses came back to haunt them as they ended up on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline against Tottenham despite bossing the second half at Old Trafford. It was important to respond in a positive manner and prove that the home match with Spurs was a mere blip which they did in impressive fashion- they avoided back-to-back defeats for the first time since the turn of the year which ironically occurred when being beaten 3-0 on Tyneside by Newcastle. Ba and Ameobi caused all sorts of problems on that January night to Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones as the Magpies ran out resounding winners on a night to quickly erase from the memory for United followers.

A defeat would also have resulted in the club's worst ever start to a Premier League campaign with three defeats in the first seven games. The last time this materialised was in 1989-90 where United finished in mid-table. There was also the chance for Newcastle to write some wanted history had they avoided defeat as being the first time since 1989 that the Toon Army had gone four matches unbeaten against their counterparts from Manchester.

The 3-0 scoreline this time around didn't flatter the visitors who were professional in everything they did from start to finish- however it was easy to forget the number of absentees and squad members in the treatment room. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have yet to appear this campaign as they remain out through injuries sustained in the summer months while Nemanja Vidic has suffered another setback in his comeback from last season's cruciate ligament injury with the news that he requires a knee operation. Darren Fletcher is being eased back into action after ten months out with viral infections and chronic bowel syndrome. Wayne Rooney, himself, has had four weeks off with a nasty gash sustained in August. That enough for you?

The match in the North East saw the partnership of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney together leading the Manchester United attack in a Premier League clash from the start for the very first time, however, despite the pair having distinguished past scoring records against the Magpies with the former netting five in the last six meetings, it was the strikers' capabilities in setting up their team-mates that were left to be admired as the front two provided corner kicks with immaculate precision and accuracy to assist their defensive colleagues. Rooney was mainly found in midfield throughout, dropping deep into room as he does so often in away matches while Van Persie had one of his quieter matches in a United shirt. The Netherlands international knows all about taking a huge lead for granted infront of the Gallowgate End when he drew 4-4 with Newcastle during his Arsenal days after being 4-0 up at half-time.

Ferguson's tactics were much to be desired as the Scot opted for a typical counter-attack approach more accustomed to a Champions League- and it paid dividends. Unusually, the experienced campaigners Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who have featured in many sides which have masterminded some fantastic results away to Newcastle, were left on the bench as United started with no natural width from a winger as Nani sat out and Valencia returned from injury on the bench. Kagawa and Welbeck operated in the wide areas while Rafael and Evra were invited to get forward and offered their support down the flanks.

David De Gea's late save against Cluj which kept their lead intact in Transylvania may have influenced Alec Ferguson's goalkeeping choice with Anders Lindegaard having to be patient again for his next opportunity. Although, it will be interesting to see who is between the sticks for their next assignment at home to Stoke in a fortnight.

This fixture has always been pencilled in as one of the most difficult games on the traditional season calendar for the Red Devils during their annual quest for the title and even though the scoreline represented a wider margin of victory and comfort, this encounter was no exception. Newcastle had been beaten just once in 2012 at home in the league by last season's eventual champions City which illustrates the size of the task infront of opponents when travelling to that part of the world where the sport is a religion and patrons of the city are passionate about their football.

The Magpies had already seen off Tottenham on the opening day of the season on home soil and have held an enviable home record since returning to the top flight in 2010 thanks largely to the 52,000 supporters who pack into the stadium on a weekly basis and vocally back the team. In contrast, United had come from behind to edge past Liverpool at Anfield, Southampton at St Marys while ended up on the losing side at Everton on matchday one on their travels thus far.

It was a tremendous effort from United to come back from a mile-round trip in midweek and start so impressively against Newcastle which killed off the game within fifteen minutes. The victory can be a stepping stone for a string of wins which could elevate them above Chelsea. They are now second place and still climbing- they will not lie down until they are at the summit. This result will be one of their best this season for sure and was described afterwards by their manager as their best performance of the campaign so far. Newcastle will be disappointed naturally however they have two weeks in hibernation to mull over the loss and will be back.