A Javier Hernandez goal shortly after half-time was cancelled out by the Senegal international's spot-kick as the Red Devils stumble once again in the title raceManchester United stumbled in their pursuit of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table after drawing 1-1 with Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday.
An entertaining but goalless first half saw chances fall for both sides but the game was made to wait until the 49th minute for the deadlock to be broken, with Javier Hernandez deflecting the ball home following a scramble in the area.
A controversial penalty then led to Newcastle's equaliser as Rio Ferdinand brought down Hatem Ben Arfa but appeared to win the ball. Demba Ba made the most of referee Michael Jones' decision, with a languid spot kick to make it 1-1.
A Jonas Gutierrez sending off with little over 10 minutes remaining looked to have damaged the visitors' chances of securing a point, but they held on despite a flurry of late United chances in which Hernandez saw a goal ruled out for offside.
Sir Alex Ferguson shuffled his pack ahead of the game and made four changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Benfica on Wednesday, as Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs, Hernandez and Wayne Rooney replaced Phil Jones, Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov in the starting XI.
Newcastle saw only one alteration to the team that lost 3-1 to Manchester City a week ago with fit again Gabriel Obertan returning to face his former club in place of Sammy Ameobi, who dropped to the bench.
However Cheick Tiote and Leon Best, who had both been expected to return to Alan Pardew’s side following recent spells on the sidelines, failed to even make the bench.
If Pardew's decision not to select the pair in his squad suggested caution, then it was to be mirrored in his side's opening efforts as United looked dangerous from the off, with both Nani and Ashley Young making threatening early darts.
It was Rooney, however, that was to carve out the first real chance of the game as he floated from a deep position before sliding in Hernandez with the outside of his right foot, only for the Mexican to hit his low effort straight at Tim Krul.
It appeared to wake the visitors from their early malaise and they were soon threatening with gusto themselves, with a strong spell of possession in the United half that culminated in a sublime through ball from Ben Arfa through to Ba, but the Senegalese failed to convert.
The number of chances soon deteriorated but the intensity remained, and Ben Arfa, who was playing superbly in behind Ba, picked up a yellow card for foolishly shoving Rooney after he claimed the United man had kicked Fabricio Coloccini. It seemed like a genuine attempt for the ball by the England international, and the Argentine himself wasn't complaining.
Winging it | Gutierrez chases Giggs in a competitive first half
Krul was then forced to deliver a moment of genuine world-class goalkeeping as Giggs met Fabio's dangerous angled cross with a delightful flick, but the Dutchman matched it with a phenomenal stretching save to his right-hand side.
The skies opened above Manchester as half-time approached and it was mirrored in the football, with Newcastle looking dangerous on the break.
Obertan in particular was proving a real threat down the right flank and saw a wicked low cross cleared back into his direction by Vidic before repeating the feat, but Yohan Cabaye was wasteful. A good build-up that went unconverted; it was indicative of the first half as a whole.
The second half began in a similar vein but despite the impressive attacking intent shown by both teams, it was to be a stroke of luck that broke the deadlock.
Steven Taylor gave away a free-kick on the edge of the area which Rooney duly hit into the wall but then lashed the rebound back into the area where it bounced off the Newcastle man before bouncing against Chicharito and beyond Krul. The Mexican knew little about it, but his positioning, as ever, couldn't have been better.United looked to turn the screw with good chances for Fabio, Rooney and Young all going close but failing to double the home side's advantage, before David de Gea pulled out a phenomenal save of his own from Coloccini's half-volley, tipping it over the bar.
The hosts' profligacy was soon punished quarter of an hour later, as Alan Pardew's side equalised in controversial fashion.
The old adage that you never win a penalty in front of the Stretford End didn't ring true as referee Jones pointed to the spot following a seemingly superb challenge from Ferdinand on Ben Arfa. Ba stepped up to convert and the England defender was left fuming.
The pendulum then swung back into United's favour after Gutierrez was sent off following a flurry of chances for Sir Alex's side. A rash challenge on Nani was deserving of a booking and rightly saw him sent off for a second yellow card following a similarly nasty tackle on Carrick.
United went into overdrive as the closing stages played out in the home side's area, but were left aghast as Young hit the post and former player Simpson kept out Hernandez's header with a block on the line.
The hosts continued to press but the visitors held on with a durability that has come to define their season. A late goal for Hernandez was controversially ruled out for offside and for United, it's another two points dropped.
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