Manchester United 0 - Newcastle United 0

Sunday 11 January
Old Trafford, Manchester

Whilst the pundits predicted goals galore, on the field it was a very different story. Despite the fact that there had been an amazing 30 goals scored in the last five matches between these two clubs, the game ended in a disappointing 0 0 draw. That said, the tussle for control throughout the game, as well as the fast-paced end to end stuff, made the game an exciting one none-the-less.

United started with Rio back in the team, with Brown on the bench just in case anything should happen. With Ronaldo on holiday, the task of filling Beckham's boots fell to Kleberson. Whilst the Brazilian international was able to play his part in a few good moves, he was very much overrun by the Newcastle defenders, and he was unable to give van Nistelrooy much in terms of service.

It was United who had the first attack, with a clever pass from Kleberson resulting in a volley from van Nistelrooy. The flying Dutchman was unable to get full control of the ball, and the ball was sent skimming past the post.

United struggled to find their usual rhythm, with the Magpies doing their best to turn the game into a "scrappy" one. Speed continually broke up play, and the game was turned on its head as Newcastle began to attack.

A free-kick from Robert went whistling past the post before Newcastle had a penalty appeal turned down. A weak Gary Neville back-pass was well-read by Alan Shearer. He took one touch to nick it past the on-rushing Tim Howard, but was unable to get a second touch as the American caught him on his way through. Referee Durkin made his first very poor decision of the day on just 25 minutes, and adjudged that it wasn't a penalty, but also that Shearer hadn't dived (he wasn't booked)?!

United still lacked cohesion at the start of the second half, and they weren't helped by Ryan Giggs' forced substitution. Forlan made little impact in place of the Welshman, and made it all too easy for Newcastle to record a clean-sheet.

Manchester started putting the pressure on on the hour, and were nearly repaid with a goal from a van Nistelrooy effort.

Newcastle struggled to cope with the new-found fluency, and should have been a goal down on 66 minutes. Mickey Silvestre managed to get his foot to a corner, and poke the ball over the line. It would have been typical United scoring and winning even when playing poorly had referee Durkin not disallowed it. He cited pushing in the box by Silvestre, but in reality there was little or nothing, and the decision lft Fergie fuming.

The Reds fought bravely on, but lacked the final ball when it was needed. Ronaldo and Giggs were both missed, and even the substitution of Bellion for Gary Neville couldn't grab us the goal to keep us three-points clear.

Fergie was far from happy with the end result, but was glad that we had got something to keep us top of the league.

Man Utd: Howard, Gary Neville (Bellion 80), Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Kleberson, Phil Neville (Fortune 69), Keane, Giggs (Forlan 45), Scholes, van Nistelrooy.

Subs Not Used: Carroll, Butt.

Booked: Gary Neville, Phil Neville.

Newcastle: Given, Hughes, Woodgate, O'Brien, Bernard, Solano (Ambrose 82), Jenas, Speed, Robert, Dyer, Shearer.

Subs Not Used: Harper, Griffin, Chopra, Viana.

Attendance: 67,622

Referee: P Durkin (Dorset).