Man Utd 1, Newcastle 1
In a week where the argument for technology as the ultimate objective arbiter has been shouted from football stand roofs all over the country, the need was illustrated yet again at Old Trafford.
Manchester United should have cut neighbours City’s lead at the top of the Premier League to two points.
The Reds had enough chances in the last 15 minutes to have done it comfortably, but the statistics show that Demba Ba’s 63rd minute penalty reduced the leaders’ advantage by only one point over United.
Rio Ferdinand’s sliding tackle on Hartem Ben Arfa a minute earlier was as clean as the proverbial whistle.
There seemed no doubt in the mind of referee Michael Jones as he pointed to a Newcastle corner.
Only Ben Arfa himself pleaded the case – and even that seemed less than full-hearted.
Yet linesman John Flynn signalled dramatically to Mr Jones that it was a penalty and the referee changed his mind and awarded the spot kick after consulting with his official.
Ba stroked home the resulting kick and the deed was done.
A furious United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: “It was a travesty. The referee was only eight yards from the incident and signalled a corner, but he let himself be overruled by the linesman.”
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew conceded: “Initially, I thought it was a penalty, but after seeing it again together with the reaction of the players, I can see why United were disappointed with the decision.”
Despite the injustice, the Reds had enough chances in the last quarter of an hour to have won.
Profligate finishing, brilliant Newcastle defending and sheer bad luck conspired against them.
United also had a one-man advantage from the 79th minute after Jonas Gutierrez was sent off for the second of two dreadful fouls – the first on Michael Carrick and the second on Luis Nani.
It was difficult to imagine Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul bettering his 31st minute save to keep out Ryan Giggs’ audacious back flick.
But Newcastle’s flying Dutchman denied United a winning berth with an even better save when he hurled his body at Nemanja Vidic’s goalbound header at pointblank range in the 80th minute.
Krul produced another superb effort to deny Patrice Evra soon after.
He was beaten by Ashley Young’s 86th minute shot from eight yards which struck of the post and had former United defender Danny Simpson to thank a minute later.
Fabio da Silva’s raking cross from the right was met perfectly by Javier Hernandez 10 yards out. The ball beat Krul and was only kept out by Simpson’s magnificent goal-line clearance.
At the other end, United goalkeeper David De Gea made a stunning save from Fabricio Coloccini on the hour – palming over the Argentinian’s downward shot from close range.
United’s goal four minutes after the interval was a fluke.
Steven Taylor brought down Hernandez on the ‘D’.
Wayne Rooney’s free kick rebounded back to him off the defensive wall. His second effort saw Steven Taylor kick the ball against the chest of Hernandez and it trickled over the line past a wrong-footed Krul.
Ferguson said: “We slaughtered Newcastle. Shots were blocked on the line and efforts cleared off the line, while their goalkeeper made some brilliant saves.
“It was a travesty we did not get three points. But, if we play like that every week I will be happy.”
Pardew said: “We played a Manchester City team at its best last week and deserved to lose. Today, it was even for long periods and my players were true Geordie heroes.”