Keegan Makes His Point At Old Trafford

Manchester United 1-1 Newcastle United

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United denied Premier League holders Manchester United an opening game victory after securing a hard-earned point at Old Trafford.

The champions started the game strongly and Shay Given made three top-class saves in the early stages to keep his side on level terms.

Obafemi Martins then stunned the home crowd after scoring with a free header from a corner, but it took United just two minutes to reply through a Darren Fletcher strike.

However, despite all their huffing and puffing, United seemed to lack the firepower and creative spark given to them by the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and the visitors held on reasonably comfortably to secure an excellent start to the season.

Team News

Fraizer Campbell was a surprise starter up-front for United with Carlos Tevez a late withdrawal for personal reasons, while Darren Fletcher played on the right-hand side of midfield due to Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani being out with injury and suspension respectively. Wayne Rooney also started having missed last week’s Community Shield victory while recovering from a virus.

Newcastle handed debuts to Danny Guthrie, Jonas Gutierrez and Fabricio Coloccini, while Obafemi Martins returned after a family bereavement to start as the lone striker for the Geordies.

First Half

The game got off to a lively start and within minutes both sides had half-hearted penalty claims turned down by referee Mike Riley. In the second minute Ryan Giggs’ free-kick struck James Milner’s arm before Gutierrez was felled by Nemanja Vidic moments later for no reward, although replays did show that contact had taken place just outside of the box.

After five minutes United should have been ahead. Rooney cut in from the left and floated in a perfect cross that Campbell met at pace with a firm header from close range. Somehow though, Newcastle ‘keeper Shay Given denied him a glorious start to the season with a fantastic reaction stop.

The champions were rampant and were piling on the pressure. Fifteen minutes in and Given did superbly to deny both Rooney and Paul Scholes from close-range after the Newcastle defence allowed United too much space and it seemed like just a matter of time before the Reds would turn their advantage into goals.

However, it was the visitors who struck first. United stopper Edwin van der Sar clumsily punched out a routine catch, which eventually resulted in a Newcastle corner. Milner floated the ball in from the right and Martins lost Fletcher with ease and firmly headed the ball past van der Sar and Scholes on the line.

But it took United just two minutes to respond. Giggs powered past Habib Beye and angled in a firm cross that was met by Fletcher who powered towards the near post and struck past Given to atone for his poor marking for Martins’ goal, the visitors paying the price as Steven Taylor was off the field for treatment.

Michael Carrick suffered an injury – a major blow to his international hopes after yesterday’s re-call – and was therefore replaced by John O’Shea as the game began to quieten down after the frantic opening 25 minutes.

The home side could go in at half-time content that they had had the better of the opening exchanges, but Magpies boss Kevin Keegan will be pleased at the fight shown by his team after they looked like being overran for the first fifteen minutes of play.

Second Half

Newcastle were clearly buoyed by their strong showing in the latter stages of the first half and Martins warmed van der Sar’s hands with a trademark powerful long-range strike. But The Toon had to be wary of the threat of the champions’ swift counter-attacks whenever they committed too many players forward.

Campbell was producing an energetic display and his turn and shot from twenty yards forced Given into a smart save at his near post. Youngster Rodrigo Possebon then replaced Giggs for the Red Devils after the Welshman seemingly picked up a knock -resulting in O’Shea dropping back to left-back as the champions’ resources were tested to the limit.

Patrice Evra, pushed forward to the left wing after the tactical reshuffle, whipped in an excellent cross for Campbell on 63 minutes, which again forced Given into action after a firm header from the ex-Hull City man.

With twenty minutes to go, the visitors could seriously hold out hopes for a superb point as the champions began to start running out of ideas going forward. But United were determined to pick up all three points and Vidic headed a Fletcher corner into the ground and on to the bar.

But the home side created little in the last fifteen minutes, and Rooney’s free-kick that fell narrowly wide in the dying seconds was the closest an off colour United came to a winning goal.

Keegan and Newcastle celebrated like they would a victory after the full-time whistle having put in a solid performance that will raise hopes ahead of the new campaign. Sir Alex Ferguson will be demanding an immediate improvement after his side failed to impress after an outstanding first half hour.

Obafemi Martins give Newcastle the opener of the night with a stunning goal. Darren Fletcher got Man Utd back into the game two minutes later.

22′ Obafemi Martins

24′ Darren Fletcher

22′ Obafemi Martins

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Keegan Makes His Point At Old Trafford Reviewed by admin Ucop on 4:31 PM Rating: 5

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