Furious United held by Magpies

United’s furious players surrounded referee Mike Jones at the final

whistle on Saturday after they had been denied two precious Premier

League points. TV replays showed Rio Ferdinand played the ball as

he slid in on Hatem Ben Arfa after an hour, with the hosts leading

through Javier Hernandez’s sixth goal of the season. But the

far-side linesman decided otherwise, awarding the visitors a

spot-kick from which Demba Ba scored. Despite the dismissal of

Jonas Gutierrez, United were unable to force home a winner, with

Tim Krul producing a series of outstanding saves and Red Devils

old-boy Danny Simpson producing a brilliant goal-line clearance to

deny Hernandez, who had a goal disallowed for offside deep into

injury time. The result means Manchester City can go seven points

clear if they win at Liverpool tomorrow. When he replaced Chris

Hughton as Newcastle boss midway through last season, Alan Pardew

could not have received a more unenthusiastic welcome on Tyneside.

Sir Alex Ferguson felt Newcastle’s 12th managerial appointment

since the departure of his old friend Sir Bobby Robson might have

been a smart move. And so it has proved. Unbeaten until last week’s

trip to Manchester City, the Magpies have soared with an

easy-on-the-eye approach that has even brought the best out of

former United winger Gabriel Obertan. The Frenchman was rarely

effective on this ground wearing red. Here, he tormented and teased

fellow countryman Patrice Evra, twice nipping past him despite

having virtually no room to work with. On the first occasion, the

visitors should have gone in front. Instead, Ryan Taylor got his

six-yard volley all wrong and completely missed his kick. Demba Ba

also had a decent chance, striding on to Hatem Ben Arfa’s astute

chip but failing to get sufficient power to his first-time volley

to threaten David de Gea. It was enough to keep the visitors’ hopes

of registering their first Old Trafford win since 1972 alive, even

if their hosts had the best opportunity. Fabio supplied it. The

young full-back curled over a glorious cross which Ryan Giggs

touched towards the corner. However, instead of extending a

sequence that has seen the veteran Welshman score in every Premier

League campaign so far, Tim Krul stretched out and pushed the ball

away, just as Javier Hernandez was closing in. Hernandez was the

most dangerous member of a United attack that had been bolstered by

the return of Wayne Rooney. The Mexican also had a shot saved by

Krul and drove another effort over, with Nani also off target with

a curling strike from the corner of the penalty area. When

Newcastle were last level at the break at Old Trafford, they went

on to lose by six and they could have conceded four within 10

minutes of the restart this time around. Fabio flashed a shot wide

after pushing the ball through Ryan Taylor’s legs, Rooney’s header

sailed over and Young skimmed a shot wide from Patrice Evra’s

cross. It was just as well for United that they had profited from

some bad luck on Steven Taylor’s part as he stuck out a leg to turn

away a Wayne Rooney piledriver. With Krul out of the game, having

dived to save, Taylor succeeded only in hitting Hernandez, who knew

nothing about it as the ball bobbled into an empty net. As

Newcastle were getting swept off their feet, it seemed they were

destined for another defeat until they benefited from a massive

slice of good fortune thanks to a staggering intervention from the

far-side linesman. When Ferdinand slid in on Ben Arfa, he conceded

what he, and referee Mike Jones, thought was a corner. The

linesman, John Flynn, had other ideas and immediately signalled for

a penalty. Ferdinand could not believe it, and TV replays showed

why as he clearly played the ball. As the arguments raged, Demba Ba

kept his cool and sent De Gea the wrong way. United’s players were

clearly unhappy though, with Ferdinand, Rooney and Evra all making

their feelings known as Newcastle celebrated their equaliser. It

was the moment that lit the blue touchpaper, with tackles flying in

and every decision being contested as United raged at the

injustice. Gutierrez pushed his luck too far when he slid through

the back of Nani. Having already been booked, the red card was

virtually automatic. From the free-kick, Krul brilliantly denied

Nemanja Vidic as he turned away the Serbian’s powerful header

before denying Patrice Evra in equally acrobatic fashion. Simpson

then magnificently turned away Hernandez’s goalbound header before

United’s final hope was extinguished thanks to an offside flag.