Cristiano Ronaldo turned in another superb display as Manchester United made the most of Newcastle United's woes to close the gap on Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal to three points.
The Portugal international claimed a double either side of half-time to take his tally for the season to 29, with Wayne Rooney, who had opened the scoring on 25 minutes, adding a brace and substitute Louis Saha scoring against his former club after Abdoulaye Faye had pulled one back.
It was just what manager Sir Alex Ferguson had ordered after the Gunners had conceded a late equaliser at Birmingham City earlier in the day to pass up the chance of establishing an eight-point lead.
United were simply irresistible on a day when their pace and movement were just too much for an angst-ridden Newcastle side, who have now not won in 10 league matches and taken only three points from the last 30 on offer.
But in truth, the Red Devils would have beaten better sides than the beleaguered Magpies on this form and Arsenal can be in little doubt that the men from Old Trafford are in hot pursuit.
Sir Bobby Robson, who celebrated his 75th birthday on Monday, was presented on the pitch before kick-off after the club he once managed had earlier unveiled a bust in his honour at St James' Park.little consolation
The Magpies lost 6-0 at Old Trafford on 12th January and on that day, they went in at the break level, and that cannot have made for an easy team-talk as Keegan looked for fresh inspiration.
Given's involvement ended at half-time when he was replaced by Steve Harper with his groin injury still causing him problems before the break.
Newcastle set about their task with a certain determination and went close twice in quick succession, Duff forcing a solid save from Edwin van der Sar at his near post and then Nicky Butt fired a long-range effort wide.
United were content to try and hit the home side on the break, and they did that to stunning effect on 56 minutes when, after spurning an earlier opportunity, Ronaldo made the most of Steven Taylor's slip to round Harper and fire home the third goal.
Duff and N'Zogbia both went close as the Magpies gamely fought on, but it was defender Faye who claimed a little consolation 12 minutes from time with a close-range finish.
But United had to have the last word, and they did when Rooney curled home a superb right-foot shot two minutes later with Saha setting the seal on a comfortable win in injury time.Information from : www.premierleague.com
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