Manchester United continued their upturn in form by thumping Newcastle United 4-0 at St. James' Park, with Juan Mata the star of the show.
The Spaniard started in a role just behind the striker and put in a superb performance to score the first two goals of the game before helping Adnan Januzaj to wrap things up in injury-time with a cool backheel.
The first half was a fairly dull one as neither side really settled into their rhythm, although United managed to put themselves ahead courtesy of a free-kick from Mata, the playmaker curling an excellent effort into the top corner to give his side a half-time lead. Hernandez ought to have made it two before the break after being set free, but crashed his effort against the post.
United grew into things as the game continued, although two forced substitutions in Alexander Buttner and Adnan Januzaj coming on in place of Patrice Evra and Ashley Young helped, with the Kagawa-Mata-Januzaj trio looking particularly bright. Mata soon had his second goal, arriving late in the area after a mistake from Fabricio Coloccini and collecting Javier Hernandez's pass to produce a composed finish, putting Rob Elliot on his backside before rolling the ball into the net.
United were looking sharp, and Hernandez soon bagged his customary goal, after Januzaj played in Kagawa to cut back for the Mexican, who met it with an instinctive glancing finish to secure the win for United.
Disappointingly, youngster James Wilson, named on the bench for the game, did not get on as Nani came on in his stead, although that did leave United with a fairly ludicrously attacking lineup in position. And they showed their worth with an excellent goal in injury-time, the Portuguese winger sending Adnan Januzaj free in the area, who then played a one-two with Mata, receiving a glorious backheel to set him free on goal before confidently beating the keeper from close range.
All in all, a game with virtually no negatives and many positives. United without Rooney did not look any worse, and Shinji Kagawa may well have played himself into a starting spot against Bayern Munich. Whether the same can be true of Januzaj is unlikely - he was involved in two goals but was uncharacteristically ineffective otherwise. But if not precise selection, the formation and system may well have been found. Of course, Bayern may offer slightly more resistance than the woeful Newcastle, but let's take a moment to dream.