All over at ST James’ Park. United move a step closer to the title but Arsenal will cling onto the hope provided by a dogged Newcastle performance. The first-half saw a glut of chances go begging and the Toon held firm in the second period, limiting the wannabe champions to few major opportunities – Giggs spurning the best of them when he really should have score. All done and dusted, Newcastle 0 Manchester United 0.
Yellow Card Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
Last Chance for Manchester United. Rooney heads a Valencia cross wide. Surely the final play.
PENALTY.....NO. A booking for a dive by Javier Hernandez. United fans began cheering as it looked like the referee had pointed to the spot.
Four added minutes to be played.
Patient build up by Manchester United has home fans biting their finger nails but when O’Shea eventually finds Giggs in the box, the Welshman’s shot on the turn is always going wide. His radar has been uncharacteristically off tonight.
The league leaders seem intent on winning the game but the quality on offer in the second-half has not been able to match their ambition.
Rooney fashions half an opening and fires from range but Tiote flings himself at the shot and blocks spectacularly.
As the second-half has progressed, Manchester United have began to look most likely to break the deadlock. A goal now would crush the hope Arsenal fans must be gaining.
Substitution Nani Michael Owen
Michael Owen enters the fray for Nani and a chorus of jeers ring around St James’ Park for the former Newcastle player.
A shirt United corner allows Nani to jink himself a yard of shooting space and the winger obliges by fizzing a low shot across the Newcastle goal. Thankfully for Geordies, no one could deflect the ball on target.
Yellow Card Mike Williamson
After a frenetic opening quarter, you would have banked on goals in this game but some brave defending and poor finishing at each end mean w enter the last 15 minutes with everything to play for. Can either side take that one opportunity needed to bag three points?
Carrick drops into the centre of defence temporarily while Vidic gets treatment for a cut.
Substitution Shola Ameobi Nile Ranger
Stephen Ireland nearly scores with his first touch of the ball. He plays off confusion caused by Shola Ameobi and strikes first-time but pulls his effort wide of the post. An instinctive strike but Van Der Sar looked to have it covered.
Substitution Anderson Antonio Valencia
Stephen Ireland and Antonio Valencia enter the fray for each side. Can either forge a pivotal chance?
Substitution Peter Lovenkrands Stephen Ireland
EXCELLENT linkup between Hernandez and Evra allows the Frenchman to find a great position and cut the ball back for Ryan Giggs. HE MUST SCORE but instead pulls his shot wide. A bad miss by the experienced pro.
Rooney hits a free-kick from fully 35-yards but a lack of pace allows Tim Krul to easily catch the ball.
Yellow Card Cheikh Tiote
The lively Hernandez tests the legs of Newcastle’s central defensive partnership by chasing a long ball into the arms of Tim Krul. All three parties were working over-time until the keeper slid out to end the danger.
A cross in the box is headed across goal by a Manchester United player and falls toward Lovenkrands in the centre of the goal. Just as he is about to head at goal, Vidic throws himself in the way and does enough to put the striker off. Excellent defending by the Serbian international.
Greg Stobart in the press-box says: “Manchester United have definitely started the second-half with the intention of playing at a higher tempo, but they are still waiting to a spark here. The Premier League leaders have been too ponderous in midfield, with Anderson and Ryan Giggs especially sluggish. Michael Owen is now warming up with a purpose on the touchline, what would the odds be on him coming on to score a crucial winner against his former side?”
Penalty appeal from Peter Lovenkrands waved away by Lee Probert. Anderson appeared to catch the striker in the box but nothing doing according to the ref.
Giggs picks up a beautiful cross field ball from Carrick and clips a super ball into the danger area. HERNANDEZ LOOKS LIKE HE’S OUT JUMPED DEFENDERS but they manage to squeeze him out and divert the danger.
Wayne Rooney works hard to wrestle off attention on the touch line but his cross his high and wide and Toon defenders watch it roll for a goal kick.
First chance of the second period falls to Manchester United. A clever dink into the box by Nani lands on the head of Ryan Giggs. His header works Krul but the lack of pace on the delivery left Giggs with too much to do.
United enjoy three successive corners but fail to test Krul with any of them. A good start to the second period by the away side though.
Giggs retrieves a ball from the dead ball line and passes to Rooney who whips a devilish ball into the box. Williamson concedes a corner.
Second 45 minutes underway. Newcastle get us rolling again.
Our man at the ground Greg Stobart gives us his views on the first-half: “Well, it was a very lively lively first 15 minutes and both sides really should have scored, with Newcastle particularly impressive in the early stages. Newcastle have created the majority of the chances but the best opportunities have fallen to the visitors, Wayne Rooney's failure to hit the target when he was through on goal the most notable. Sir Alex Ferguson may well be waiting in the dressing room to deliver the hairdryer to his players – they have been off the pace and have lacked zip in their passing, perhaps still suffering after Saturday's loss against Manchester City.”
Half-time in the North East and both sides have had chances to take the lead. An exciting game isn’t done justice by the score line as Hernandez, Rooney, Lovenkrands and Gutierrez have all had good chances. Alan Pardew will probably be the happier of the two managers but United are still very much a threat as they bid to put one hand on the Premier League trophy.
Yellow Card Michael Carrick
Carrick enters the notebook for a trip. It looked like a simple coming together and could be said to be harsh on the midfielder.
GREAT CHANCE for the home side. Barton crosses from deep and when Ameobi takes defenders to the near post, Lovenkrands has a free header from 12-yards. He should at least work the keeper but gets his timing wrong and heads wide. He looked awkward and should have done better.
Two minutes to go to half-time and one would think Alan Pardew will be much the happier manager after seeing his side play without any real fear in the first-half. Can either side seize initiative before the break.
Barton again hits a free-kick at goal but fails to really trouble Van Der Sar who grasps the ball with ease.
O’Shea gets some revenge on Gutierrez by jinking inside the Argentinean to set Nani up with a shooting opportunity from 18-yards. Danny Guthrie bravely blocks the effort and stays down on the turf as a result. The shot packed some punch but Guthrie looks like he will be fine.
The balance of play seems to be tipping slightly as the league leaders enjoy a number of attacks but fail to deliver balls into the box with any quality. Both Giggs and Rooney guilty of hitting the first man.
From the press box, Goal.com reporter Greg Stobart gives us his take on the opening half an hour: “Jonas Gutierrez has had a storming first half-hour of the game, but that hasn't stopped Alan Pardew from screaming instructions towards him and every opportunity. The Newcastle boss is incredibly animated on the touchline and the referee's reflectance to show Nani and Ryan Giggs has resulted in two heated exchanges with the fourth official. The Toon Army are now singing 'one Kevin Keegan' – I'm not entirely sure how that fits in to the context of this game.”
A floated ball from the left side by Joey Barton is flicked on by Shola Ameobi and Gutierrez only has one thing in mind upon receiving the ball. The Argentine drives toward the near post but Van Der Sar is happy to see the ball flash into the side netting. Half a chance.
NANI GOES DOWN IN THE BOX after an attempted tackle by Gutierrez but the Portuguese winger is jeered for going to ground and play is waved on by referee Lee Probert.
Without top scorer Kevin Nolan, the home side have acquitted themselves very well here against the league leaders. With Nolan on the pitch, one wonders if they would have taken one of their early opportunities.
Joey Barton clips a free-kick at goal after Ameobi is fouled 30-taerds out but the effort lacks pace and Van Der Sar gets his body behind it to catch.
The opening quarter ends with Alan Pardew’s men possibly frustrated with missed opportunities. At the other end, Rooney has set up a great chance for Hernandez and missed a glorious opening himself. Goals look very much on the agenda as both sides seem intent on having a go.
Rooney and Hernadez link beautifully and ROONEY IS IN. He shapes to shoot across Krul but plumps for the top corner at the near post. A STUNNING CHANCE beats the cross-bar though. Very sharp play but again the finish is missing.
A beautifully measured diagonal ball from Giggs has Coloccini stretching but to no avail. Hernandez has a sight of goal and volleys from a narrowing angle but Krul only has to fall on a tame effort.
Good hold up play by Ameobi releases the flying Gutierrez and his cross is blocked for another Newcastle corner.
United seem to have stemmed the flow of Newcastle attacks. After Hernandez’ outstanding second minute chance, the Magpies have swarmed the Manchester United area and enjoyed 70% of the possession in the opening 12 minutes.
A great opening ten minutes capped as Hernandez almost sneaks in behind the Newcastle defence but Enrique tidy’s up nicely. Newcastle the better side in the opening exchanges and could be made to rue missed opportunities.
Goal.com reporter Greg Stobart is in the press box and says: “The noise in the stadium has got louder and louder since kick-off, with the home supporters hugely encouraged by their side's start to the game. Alan Pardew's side are knocking the ball about with startling confidence and Manchester United are under pressure. It's already enthralling.”
Another Newcastle corner from Barton is headed at goal by Coloccini but lovenkrands can’t turn it toward goal. The home side look hungry and United are pinned in.
Newcastle rampant all of a sudden. First Gutierrez cuts in from the left and only a super block prevents a shot on target. From the resulting corner, Ameobi gets on the end o f deep crossbut can’t get enough on it – allowing Van Der Sar to save.
That really was outstanding by Krul and he seems to have kick started both the players and atmosphere in the ground. Barton pluck a ball out of the air and could shoot from a tight angle but elects to square the ball. He only manages to find a Red shirt. HALF A CHANCE FOR THE TOON.
Newcastle saved already by Tim Krul. A long ball gets Rooney in behind and with Hernandez screaming for a ball across the six-yard box, Rooney delivers perfectly. The Mexican MUST SCORE. Krul is brave, diving at his feet to deny a certain goal.
And we’re off, Manchester United get us rolling and control the ball for the opening 30 seconds before O’Shea gets sloppy and plays a poor long ball.
Moments from kick off, an interesting stat from Goal.com: Manchester Utd have not beaten a top 10 side away from home this year
Our man at the ground Greg Stobart says: The players have finished their warm-up on what registers as a balmy evening on these parts, with Darron Gibson the last player off the pitch after some shooting practice (is that all he does?). The sound of The Specials is being blasted around St James' Park – and the home fans know it will take a quite special performance for their side to get anything from tonight's game, especially without the goal threat of captain Kevin Nolan.
Manchester United subs: Owen, Park, Fabio, Evans, Valencia, Gibson, Kuszczak
Newcastle United Subs: Perch, Ryan Taylor, Ireland, Steven Taylor, Ranger, Soderberg, Kuqi.
Manchester United 4-4-2: Van der Sar; O'Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Giggs; Rooney, Hernandez.
Newcastle 4-4-2: Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Enrique; Barton, Tiote, Guthrie, Gutierrez; Ameobi, Lovenkrands
Hello and welcome to Goal.com’s live commentary from ST James’ Park where Manchester United will look to hammer a final nail into Arsenal’s title bid ahead of the gunners North London derby at Tottenham tomorrow night. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men can go nine points clear with a victory and history doesn’t bode well for the hosts who are winless against United in almost a decade.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed