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The Reds’ quest to regain the Barclays Premier League title began at Old Trafford on Monday night with a commanding win over newly-promoted Newcastle United.
Goals from Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher gave the home side a deserved lead at the break before substitute Ryan Giggs volleyed home a third to underline United’s dominance. By then, though, it was all academic: the result never looked in doubt against a Magpies outfit that struggled to take flight, despite an encouraging opening 10 minutes.
Before kick-off there was greater-than-usual anticipation in the pre-match television build-up, as fans waited to see what sort of side Sir Alex would name for this season opener. It soon transpired there was no room for the summer signings, as both Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez started on the bench. Berbatov and Wayne Rooney were given the nod to lead the attack, while Patrice Evra, despite not featuring in any of United’s pre-season preparations, took up his familiar left-back position.
Fletcher and Paul Scholes, the latter taking part in his 15th consecutive opening-day fixture, were charged with bossing the centre of midfield and in former Red Alan Smith and tough-tackling Joey Barton found themselves up against formidable and physical foes.
The Magpies endured the expected early spell of sustained Reds pressure, but it was Chris Hughton’s side who fashioned the game's first real opportunity. Andy Carroll had done well to win a corner off Vidic and it was the young centre-forward who rose highest to meet Joey Barton’s corner on 10 minutes; he’ll certainly feel he should have done better than head wide from six yards out.
At the other end, Sir Alex’s men were restricted to speculative shots from distance. Smith bravely blocked from O’Shea while neither Nani nor