Fletcher celebrates scoring the second for the home side
(By Saj Chowdhury – BBC )
Manchester United made the perfect start to their title bid with a comfortable victory against promoted side Newcastle at Old Trafford.
Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring when he fired past Steve Harper from the left-edge of the six-yard area.
Darren Fletcher doubled the lead with a close-range effort, before Ryan Giggs volleyed in a third late on.
Andy Carroll wasted Newcastle’s best chance when he directed his free header wide from about four yards out.
Had that gone in with a little more than 10 minutes played, then it would have calmed the Magpies’ jitters.
As it was, those jitters cost Chris Hughton’s side dearly as they were soon reminded of the gulf in class between Championship and Premier League opposition.
Berbatov’s opener came after a period of constant pressure from Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
The Bulgaria striker, who is into his third season at the club, placed his angled effort wide of Harper after ghosting past full-back Jose Enrique.
Berbatov owned the Magpies’ final third during the match, either drifting wide or dropping deep to give the opposition a major headache.
In contrast, his strike partner Wayne Rooney remained off-colour, and was replaced by new signing Javier Hernandez in the second half, but a below-par Rooney is better than no Rooney at all.
His decisive touch, whether intentional or not, led to the Red Devils’ second goal.
Nani picked out the marauding Patrice Evra on the left of the area and the Frenchman fired the ball across which Rooney nudged on to Fletcher, who in turn spun Argentine defender Fabricio Coloccini and poked past Harper.
The Scot also scored when the two teams last met at Old Trafford on the opening day of the 2008/09 season.
Last year’s runners-up must have had one eye on equalling champions Chelsea’s opening fixture feat, when they put six past West Brom.
Their third should have come from the move of the match.
Paul Scholes, who was free to dictate play having been smothered for space in the opening 15 minutes, played a quick ball to Rooney on the edge of the area, whose flick found Berbatov.
Unfortunately for the striker, his finish with the outside of his boot beat Harper but also the left-hand post.
Nani, one of Ferguson’s most-improved players, then tried his luck from 20 yards but his low curling effort narrowly missed the target too.
In the last 10 minutes, the effervescent Berbatov was again put through by Scholes, but after easing past a couple of challengers, Harper stood firm to block his final effort.
However, the Newcastle keeper had little chance to stop the brilliant third.
Mastermind Scholes, 30 yards from goal, floated the ball to substitute Giggs on the left, who calmly volleyed down into the ground and past Harper.