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Man Utd 1-1 Newcastle Monday, 18 August, 2008

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BBC SPORT | Football | Premier League | Man Utd 1-1 Newcastle.

By Jonathan Stevenson

Interview: Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan

Manchester United made an unconvincing start to the defence of their Premier League title as they were held at Old Trafford by an impressive Newcastle.

The hosts were denied a penalty when James Milner appeared to handle, but Newcastle took a first-half lead when Obafemi Martins powered home a header.

Manchester United levelled only two minutes later when Darren Fletcher converted Ryan Giggs’ left-wing cross.

Nemanja Vidic headed against the bar, but Newcastle fully deserved a point.

Magpies boss Kevin Keegan will be delighted with their committed performance, while Sir Alex Ferguson will surely now increase his efforts to buy a striker.

His side’s preparations were hit by the absence of striker Carlos Tevez, who flew home to Argentina following a family bereavement.

That led to Fraizer Campbell making his first Premier League start for the club, leading the line with Wayne Rooney who had recovered from a virus.

It was a frantic start to the game, proper end-to-end start-of-the-season stuff, with the two Uniteds taking it in turns to launch an attack.

The Red Devils thought they should have had a penalty when Giggs’ free-kick struck Milner on the hand, while Shay Given remarkably saved Campbell’s point-blank header with his own head.

Interview: Man Utd’s Darren Fletcher

Given made a magnificent double save too, from Rooney’s low right-foot drive and then Paul Scholes’ close-range follow-up.

But Newcastle, who were destroyed 6-0 in the corresponding fixture last season, were in no mood to lie down this time and they created a host of chances themselves.

Impressive new signing Jonas Gutierrez should have had a free-kick on the edge of the United box when he was bundled over by Vidic, before they took the lead.

Milner swung over a corner from the right and Martins rose unchallenged to power a header past Edwin van der Sar and into the net.

But with defender Steven Taylor off the pitch receiving treatment, the home team almost immediately got themselves back on level terms.

Giggs found space down the left and sent over a low cross, Fletcher timing his run to perfection to divert the ball past Given and into the net.

It had been a breathless first 25 minutes and as the tempo of the game began to slow, so did the number of chances on offer.

Ferguson’s team have been notoriously slow starters for many a year now and their usually precise, swift counter-attacking was a touch off-key on the opening day.

Martins continued to be a threat and shortly after the break he cut in from the left and forced Van der Sar to make a save.

At the other end Campbell was struggling to make an impression, though he did come to life with one run and shot that forced another brilliant low one-handed save from the ever reliable Given.

But they rarely looked like breaking Newcastle down and Vidic’s downward header that looped up on to the bar apart, the visitors saw out the game in relative comfort.


Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson:
“We played well in the first half, and their goalkeeper made several good saves to keep them in the match.

“Our attacking play in the first half was good. But as soon as we lost Ryan Giggs to a hamstring injury and Michael Carrick with an ankle, which is swollen up badly – he’ll be out for two to three weeks – we lost a bit of our experience in midfield.

“We had possession of the ball but didn’t make it count at times – but in light of the people we had missing, it was a creditable result for us.”

Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan:
“That was a good, good performance from us and we thoroughly deserved a point.

“Of course you are going to have to ride your luck when you come to a place like this and we did, but no-one can say we got more than we deserved.

“Newcastle fans will go away saying how they witnessed a team playing for the supporters, playing for the badge, playing for the club – and that’s what they deserve.

“There were lots of good things for us to build on but we mustn’t get carried away as there are a lot of tough games to come.”


Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick (O’Shea 25), Scholes, Giggs (Possebon 63), Campbell (Rafael Da Silva 80), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Neville, Evans, Gibson.

Booked: Campbell, Brown, Rooney.

Goals: Fletcher 24.

Newcastle: Given, Beye, Taylor, Coloccini, N’Zogbia, Milner, Butt, Guthrie, Gutierrez, Duff, Martins.
Subs Not Used: Harper, Jose Enrique, Bassong, Smith, Geremi, Edgar, Donaldson.

Goals: Martins 22.

Att: 75,512.

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).

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