United: Given, O'Brien, Shearer, Speed, Ambrose (Chopra 85), Hughes, Bramble, Ameobi (Bridges 85), Robert (Brittain 75), Bernard, Viana Subs (not used): Harper, Taylor
City: James, Distin, Wanchope (Macken 90), Sun, Tarnat, Dunne, Barton, Bosvelt, Sinclair (Reyna 71), Wright-Phillips, Anelka Subs (not used): Arason, Fowler, Sibierski
Referee: Mark Halsey
UNITED were in action at the impressive City of Manchester Stadium for the first time as they looked to leapfrog Liverpool back into fourth place.
With Liverpool not playing until Sunday, a win would lift Sir Bobby Robson's side back into the final Champions League qualifying berth, and turn up the heat on Kevin Keegan as the ex-United hero tries to guide his side to safety.
Titus Bramble returned to the starting line-up in place of the injured Jonathan Woodgate in the only change to the side that beat Chelsea 2-1 at St. James' Park last weekend.
The home side were captained by former United defender Sylvain Distin, while Robbie Fowler had to be content with a place on the bench as Keegan started with Nicolas Anelka and Paulo Wanchope in attack.
United had a great chance to open the scoring inside a minute when Bramble got on the end of Robert's free kick but his effort was well saved by James and from the corner that followed Speed's header was off target.
A trip from Barton on Ameobi on four minutes gave United a free kick 25 yards out in a central position, but Shearer's quickly taken effort hit the wall and rolled through to James.
A great ball from Bramble found Ambrose out on the right, and he won a corner off Tarnat which James had to tip away after Robert swung the ball in.
Bramble had a looping header kicked away from on the line by Wanchope after Speed headed Robert's free kick back across goal on 10 minutes, then at the other end Bramble headed Sinclair's cross away for a corner which was easily cleared.
Bramble then conceded another flag kick when he stuck out a leg to prevent Wright-Phillips from getting a cross in, but O'Brien rose well to head clear.
Robert slid the ball across the face of goal on 23 minutes after great play from Speed in midfield, but Ameobi just couldn't stretch enough to get a touch to divert the ball into the net.
Moments later Ameobi showed some fine skill to make space for a cross from the left, but Sinclair had done well to track Shearer's run to the back post and he got there first to give away a corner which was cleared.
United had been well on top as the first period passed the half way stage, and James made another good block to deny Ameobi when he got on the end of a flick on from Shearer with 25 minutes on the clock.
Viana tried his luck from distance on the half hour but his strike was easy for James, then Ambrose had an effort well held by the goalkeeper after United broke quickly following a City free kick.
O'Brien got in a tackle on Anelka as the Frenchman tried to shoot on 36 minutes, and when Tarnat swung the ball in Given made a superb block to beat out Dunne's bullet header.
Play quickly switched to the other end, but Bernard's low cross was just behind Ameobi and the ball flashed across the face of goal and away for a goal kick, then when City attacked again they won another corner which Speed headed away.
Barton tried to catch out Given with a first time effort from distance just before the break, then at the other end Shearer miscued after Ameobi's header bounced in front of him as the half ended goalless.
Aaron Hughes did well to head Wright-Phillips' cross away for a corner two minutes after the break, but Dunne's header was well off target when Wanchope took the corner.
Wright-Phillips had been causing problems on the wing all afternoon and Bernard had to give a corner away as the winger tried to get a cross in from the right on 51 minutes and again the set piece was defended well.
United won their firts flag kick of the second period on 54 minutes when Robert's low centre was cleared, but City eventually cleared their lines after Shearer had a shot blocked in a crowded box.
On 58 minutes City took the lead when Wanchope got on the end of Anelka's chipped cross to flash the ball past Given into the bottom corner.
Speed was then booked for a foul on Wright-Phillips as he tried to race down the inside right channel, but thankfully for Newcastle the free kick was headed away.
Sun Jihai's foul on Robert gave United a free kick near to the left angle of the box, but the Frenchman drilled the ball in low and it eventually went for a goal kick.
Barton had to clear over his own crossbar when hughes crossed from the right on 66 minutes but James punched Robert's inswinger away under pressure from Speed.
Bosvelt was booked for a foul on Robert as he tried to weave his way through from midfield on 68 minutes, and when the Frenchamn was fit to resume he drilled the free kick straight at the four man wall.
Keegan made his first switch of the afternoon when he put former Sunderland midfielder Claudio Reyna on in place of Trevor Sinclair with 19 minutes left.
City were appealing for a penalty when Anelka's shot was blocked by Bramle on 72 minutes but the referee wasn't interested, then seconds later the big defender did enough to put off Wright-Phillips and clear the danger after a raid down the right.
Robert still appeared to be feeling the effects of the challenge from Bosvelt, and he limped off with 15 minutes left as Martin Brittain was handed his first taste of Premiership action. Brittain immediately went to the right of midfield, with Ambrose switching flanks.
City were claiming a penalty again on 79 minutes when Wright-Phillips tumbled under Bernard's challenge but the referee was well positioned and allowed play on after indicating the defender had won the ball.
On 83 minutes Given palmed Bosvelt's piledriver over the bar for a corner but when the ball came across Wanchope couldn't get his header on target, then a minute later Given denied the striker with his legs after Anelka pulled the ball back.
With five minutes left Sir Bobby went for broke by throwing on Chopra and Bridges for Ambrose and Ameobi and switching to a 4-3-3 in a bid to pinch a point.
But City kept up the pressure in the closing stages and held on to take the points.