Most teams would pay to stay second place in the Premier League table and second place in the group stages in the Champions League. But Old Trafford is a place like no other where anything less than the top spot is considered a disappointment. After getting off to a flying start this season, it has been a bumpy ride for Manchester United since the 6-1 demolition by neighbours City. After dropping vital points during midweek against Benefica, United stuttered again, this time in the league as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Newcastle United.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who celebrated his 25th anniversary last week at Old Trafford, opted for experience over youth as he slotted Ryan Giggs in a central midfield role alongside Michael Carrick which meant Rooney was restored to his preferred role of a striker alongside Hernandez, who was picked ahead of birthday boy Welbeck. Fabio was selected ahead of Smalling and Jones at right back while Ferdinand and Vidic took their places at the centre of defence.
United, who were already five points behind City, were in much need of all the three points and they started off the brighter team with Hernandez coming close on a couple of occasions. Newcastle, who were unbeaten until last week’s game against Manchester City, got their first decent effort when Steven Taylor’s chip found Demba Ba but the in-form striker’s shot was too weak to trouble De Gea. As rain lashed over Old Trafford, United’s attack got more and more menacing. Giggs collected a cross from Fabio but Krul palmed it away to safety before Hernandez got there. Hernandez had another shot saved by Krul before Nani shot over the top as both teams went into the break with the score reading 0-0.
United continued their flurry of attacks and rightly took the lead four minutes into the second half, albeit with a bit of fortune. Rooney volleyed back the ball into the box after his freekick rebounded off the wall. Steven Taylor’s clearance though cannoned off Hernandez and into the back of the net to give United the lead. The Red Devils almost doubled their lead minutes later after Hernandez and Fabio linked well on the right before the Brazilian shot high and wide.
It was turning out to be a riot until a rare Newcastle attack was stopped by a fine Ferdinand tackle in the box. The linesman though signaled it as a foul and the referee pointed to the spot much to the agitation of the United fans and players alike. Ba, Newcastle’s top scorer this season, stepped up to take the penalty and send De Gea the other way as Newcastle leveled the scores against the run of play. United raised their game to another level as Young just missed after Nani’s brilliant cross.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, Gutierrez was sent off after a he was shown a second yellow for a rash tackle on Nani as United continued to pressurize the Magpies in the dying minutes. Krul was the hero for the visitors as he stood tall to deny Vidic before pulling off an acrobatic save to keep out Evra’s left footed effort. Young’s low drive rebounded off the post while Hernandez’ header was spectacularly kept out by Simpson. Macheda could only head wide off a Giggs cross before Hernandez sent the United fans out of their seat with a tap-in off a Giggs cross. But the flag was up as Hernandez was marginally ruled off-side to keep the scores level and give Newcastle a well deserved point.
The draw meant City could extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points after their game at Anfield on Sunday while Newcastle will believe that they have a serious chance of qualifying for Europe as they sit in fourth position in the table, ahead of Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.