St. James' Park
Barclays Premier League
By Anthony Marshall, at St. James' Park
Newcastle United 0
Manchester United 0
Newcastle secured an impressive - and potentially crucial - Premier League point with a goalless draw against Manchester United at St. James' Park.
Alan Pardew's side were well worth a share of the spoils and could have even claimed victory following a largely dominant first half display which yielded a number of chances.
Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands and Jonas Gutierrez all went close for the hosts as they continued to knock on the door, but the Red Devils held firm, superbly marshaled by the centre-back pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Chris Smalling.
The league leaders has chances of their own, with Javier Hernandez, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs all threatening, but they were unable to beat stand-in keeper Tim Krul.
Krul, in for the injured Steve Harper, knew there was a strong chance he would be in for a busy evening, and was called into action inside the opening two minutes.
The Dutchman excelled, diving bravely at the feet of Javier Hernandez only a couple of yards out when the Mexican international looked set to convert Wayne Rooney's low centre.
And from there the hosts quickly grew in confidence, with Shola Ameobi firing a sighter from distance off target, and no-one being able to get on the end of crosses from Joey Barton or Jonas Gutierrez.
Seconds later the latter carved a chance out of nothing, darting inside the challenges of Nani and John O'Shea, breezing past Michael Carrick and seeing his curled shot deflected behind by Chris Smalling's block.
There was only one team in it in the opening spell and both Ameobi and strike partner Peter Lovenkrands forced corners with near post efforts, before Edwin Van Der Sar was forced into a decent stop from a low Cheik Tiote drive.
The pressure was almost relentless in that opening ten minutes as Newcastle forced corner after corner, roared on by a vociferous St. James' Park support, but were unable to force the breakthrough their efforts deserved.
In the 17th minute Hernandez offered a reminder of what the visitors could do with a long range shot which wasn't too far away, and Krul was equal to a tame effort from the same player less than 60 seconds later as he escaped the attentions of the Newcastle defence.
And Manchester United were perhaps unfortunate to go ahead when Wayne Rooney seized on a loose ball just outside the area and proceeded to lift it over the sliding challenge of Mike Williamson, lift it over the on-rushing Krul, and - thankfully for the Magpies - lift it over the bar as well.
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It took 25 minutes, but the game finally settled into a normal flow from the frenetic rhythm it had started at. However, the openings continued to present themselves. The visitors saw a penalty shout turned down when Nani tumbled far too easily in the box under a challenge from Gutierrez, and received a ticking off from referee Lee Probert for his troubles.
While at the other end, Gutierrez drove into the side netting after a cross from right to left had been challenged for by Ameobi and Red Devils skipper Nemanja Vidic.
With half-time approaching Barton curled a free-kick from wide on the left into the arms of Van Der Sar, when it was crying out for any touch to surely take it past the Manchester United keeper.
And then came the chance of the opening 45 minutes. Barton's delivery from the right was inch-perfect and found Lovenkrands completely unmarked 12 yards out, but the Danish striker somehow sent his header well wide when it should have provided the breakthrough.
The visitors looked brighter after the break and, following a succession of corners, Ryan Giggs may feel he should have done better with a looping header from Nani's cross which was simple for Krul to collect.
As the Red Devils started to turn the screw, the provider of that chance then had a go himself on 55 minutes but, having cut in from the right, could only blaze high and wide.
Straight down the other end Lovenkrands was furious to see a penalty appeal turned down, as he went past Anderson just inside the area and hit the deck but - as with the away team's first half shout - Mr Probert was adamant the player had not been fouled.
A 25-yard Rooney free-kick in the 65th minute failed to cause Krul any serious trouble, after the keeper had minutes earlier smothered well at the feet of Hernandez, who had just managed to out-pace Fabricio Coloccini and Williamson
Krul was beaten four minutes later though when Patrice Evra skipped into the box and centred for Giggs, who provided a sidefoot finish from ten yards. But, surprisingly, the veteran scuffed his effort wide with Newcastle's keeper seemingly helpless to stop it.
Stephen Ireland was introduced from the substitutes' bench for his Magpies debut in place of Peter Lovenkrands, taking up a position just behind Ameobi, and he sent a half-volley just wide of Van Der Sar's goal almost immediately.
Nile Ranger also stepped up into the game for Ameobi as home manager Alan Pardew looked to freshen his attacking options, but it was the Premier League leaders who carved out the next chance, with Nani flashing a low, bouncing strike across the face of goal on 77 minutes.
Ex-Newcastle striker Michael Owen was given the final ten minutes from the bench for the visitors and entered to a chorus of boos for his injury-hit four-year spell at St. James' Park. But he was to have little impact as Giggs scuffed another effort off target, Rooney headed wide, and the Magpies defended solidly to claim a well-deserved draw.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrqiue; Joey Barton (c), Cheik Tiote, Danny Guthrie, Jonas Gutierrez; Shola Ameobi (Nile Ranger 72), Peter Lovenkrands (Stephen Ireland 69)
Manchester United (4-4-2): Edwin van der Sar; John O'Shea, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Vidic (c), Patrice Evra; Nani (Michael Owen 80), Michael Carrick, Anderson (Antonio Valencia 70), Ryan Giggs; Javier Hernandez, Wayne Rooney
Subs not used: Tomasz Kuszczak, Fabio Da Silva, Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson, Ji-Sung Park
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)
Attendance: 49, 025 (2,800 Manchester United)