Football: Irwin makes a point as United lack direction

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Manchester United. . . 1

Ipswich Town. . . . . .1

MANCHESTER UNITED salvaged their first point in Premier League competition yesterday, but produced scant evidence to suggest they will be masters of the new race.

For all their prompting in midfield, they had none of the forceful direction of old, and certainly not sufficient to suppress an Ipswich side intent on securing their own credibility in the new league. The Old Trafford faithful must fear their team is ill-equipped to complete the mission they lost at the death last season. United's equaliser, a spectacular strike by full-back Denis Irwin, was greeted with relief rather than the conviction associated with genuine title contenders.

Ipswich, bolstered by their steady start to the season, came with a policy of contain and counter. John Wark performed heroically at the back. However, he was a little too tight on Mark Hughes in the opening minutes and earned a booking for kicking the ball away in frustration.

Twice, however, he blocked the path of Ryan Giggs, and when he allowed Hughes through, Mike Stockwell retrieved the situation with an important tackle in the area. Geraint Williams augmented their defence, operating as a sweeper in front of the back four.

Ipswich tackled and covered with assurance and broke with a similar sense of purpose. But for Stockwell's careless first touch and Steve Bruce's effective if primitive challenge on Chris Kiwomya, United might have been punished the way they were by Everton here on Wednesday. They inevitably left gaps at the back as they pushed forward.

Kiwomya gave Ipswich the lead early in the second half, taking full advantage of Gary Pallister's uncertainty following Neil Thompson's long throw from the left.

United's early offensives augered well, Giggs combining with Irwin and Darren Ferguson before sending an exquisite centre to Hughes who looped the ball beyond the angle.

Hughes was again a principal character in another attack by United, this time finding Brian McClair on the right. The Scotsman shuffled round the Ipswich defence but his shot was inches wide and ahead of the converging Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis. Both wingers craved more consistent supply, Kanchelskis reminding his colleagues of his potential when he drifted in from the right and turned a low firm shot just wide.

Ipswich began the second half as they had the first, collecting a yellow card. This time the culprit was Phil Whelan, following a challenge on Kanchelskis. In the 56th minute, however, United should have been kicking themselves for permitting Ipswich to take the lead. Kiwomya seized on his opportunity and put his shot past Peter Schmeichel, United's goalkeeper.

A minute later United were level. Kanchelskis raced down the right, Ipswich succeeded only in clearing as far as the onrushing Irwin and he struck a rising shot wide of Craig Forrest's dive.

United introduced Neil Webb in an endeavour to prise more openings and take the three points. Wark was one of the chief obstacles but Hughes might have had better control of a header he turned over and Giggs, having shrugged off a defender, will doubtless feel he ought to have beaten Forrest instead of volleying straight at the grateful goalkeeper.

Kanchelskis was more profligate still in the 72nd minute, when Schmeichel found him in acres of space with an intelligent, swift throw out. Kanchelskis sprinted unchallenged into the Ipswich area yet, with Forrest at his mercy, inexplicably thrashed the ball into the side netting.

Despite that error, the Ukrainian was a source of anxiety for Ipswich and they cannot have been as displeased as he was when he was taken off to make way for Dion Dublin four minutes from time. Even then, Ipswich were not safe and Forrest had to scramble away a shot Webb somehow threaded through a clutch of defenders.

Manchester United: P Schmeichel; D Irwin, C Blackmore (N Webb, 66 min), S Bruce, D Ferguson, G Pallister, A Kanchelskis (D Dublin, 85 min), M Phelan, B McClair, M Hughes, R Giggs. Sub not used: G Walsh (gk). Manager: A Ferguson.

Ipswich Town: C Forrest; P Whelan (S Milton, 82 min), N Thompson, M Stockwell, J Wark, D Linighan, G Williams, P Goddard, G Johnson, J Dozzell (E Youds, 73 min), C Kiwomya. Sub not used: C Baker (gk). Team manager: M McGiven.

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

Goals: Kiwomya (56 min, 0-1); Irwin (57 min, 1-1).