Nani and ex-Reds winger Gabriel Obertan traded shots over the top and the latter carried some threat as the half wore on, with Patrice Evra requiring the assistance of Nemanja Vidic in the middle to deal with one raid and then blocking a cross from his fellow countryman with his arm, although a penalty would have been extremely harsh.
The final attack of the first 45 minutes again carried plenty of potential but Hernandez made a hash of Young's pass by missing his kick, after Rooney was involved in the build-up, meaning the teams went in goalless at the break.
The Reds edged in front at the start of the second half after Hernandez was fouled by Steven Taylor. Rooney's free-kick hit the wall but he volleyed it back with his left foot and Steven Taylor's attempted clearance cannoned off Hernandez and into the net. It was a slice of luck but the Reds should have extended the lead soon afterwards when Fabio worked a clever one-two with Hernandez but hammered an inviting opportunity off target.
The Magpies were clinging on for dear life as Young fizzed a shot inches wide following fine play by Evra. However, Newcastle rallied and De Gea had to make a stunning save to keep out Fabricio Coloccini after the hosts were caught napping at a corner. The relief was only temporary, however, as Ferdinand's fine tackle on Ben Arfa led to the controversial penalty. Up stepped Ba to send De Gea the wrong way and level the scores - despite the champions' protests. The Reds' frustration with the officials grew, with the manager upset at one wrong call, and the bookings mounted for the Magpies as they resorted to some desperate tackles.
After Rooney had a shot off target, Young really should have restored the lead but, under pressure from Steven Taylor, was unable to convert Nani's excellent assist with the goal gaping. Gutierrez was shown a