Newcastle United 2 Manchester United 2: Edgar on hand to peg back Ferguson

The first of January ushered in the first of the delicate away assignments that will determine Manchester United's fate in May and ended with Sir Alex Ferguson suffering a deflating climax to a festive season that had enriched his 65th birthday celebrations.

Consumed by the thought of a nine-point gap over a divided Chelsea at the top of the Premiership, his ambitions were limited to a meagre draw against a depleted Newcastle United instead. Rarely can a seven-point lead on New Year's Day have felt so underwhelming.

If United, the Manchester variety that is, are to land a first League title in four seasons, then it is success at such problematic destinations as St James' Park, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City that will shape their triumph more than any injury crisis or internal argument at Stamford Bridge. In that respect the first of those eight staging posts suggested a fraught scramble to the finishing line, the two-horse race now slowed by two-all draws as Newcastle defied a 12-man injury list and their home debutant David Edgar denied United the opportunity to tighten their hold on the top.

Ahead through two goals from Paul Scholes, the visitors looked to have survived the spirited response Glenn Roeder had demanded from his limited resources. Yet they lacked the ruthlessness they had shown of late and when Edgar's 25-yard drive deflected off the former England midfielder and nestled into the bottom corner of Edwin van der Sar's goal in the 74th minute, they could have no complaints about the outcome.

"We should have won with the amount of chances we had," Ferguson said. "But Newcastle deserved a point for the spirit and effort put in. They were first to everything."

Magnanimous perhaps, but the hosts were in such poor health that his opposite number had been forced to abandon plans to field Nicky Butt as an emergency defender against his old club when the midfielder reported to St James' with a swollen left ankle.

In his place stepped Edgar, a Canadian left-back, the son of one-time Newcastle player Eddie, and a 19-year-old with only one previous first-team outing to his name. Alongside the equally raw Paul Huntington in defence, his early involvement raised suspicions this would not be the walkover many on Tyneside had feared as he started with a precision tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo, then dribbled his way around Gary Neville near the Newcastle corner flag.

It was his decision to let fly from the angle with 16 minutes remaining, however, that will leave the lasting impression. "His dad was in the crowd today and this is a dream come true for David," Roeder said, "although he would have been on the bench had Nicky been fit."

In the first half, Kieron Dyer, sent clear by a shuddering challenge from Scott Parker that set a standard even the likes of Antoine Sibierski and Obafemi Martins followed obligingly, had drawn the first save of the game out of Van der Sar. Then, in the 33rd minute, James Milner cut in from the left and unleashed a fabulous strike into the top corner that opened his account for the season.

Only now did Manchester United show real urgency and quality in front of goal. Though Shay Given had marked his 400th Newcastle appearance with fine saves from Louis Saha and Wayne Rooney, with Parker also clearing a header by the French striker off the line, there was a lack of conviction about the visiting attack until Saha succumbed to a groin injury and Ferguson reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Rooney the lone forward.

Within four minutes they were level as Scholes found the bottom corner from 18 yards following a slick move outside the Newcastle area. Twenty-five seconds into the second half he struck once more, albeit thanks to a telling deflection off Steven Taylor, and, though Ronaldo and Park added to Ferguson's frustration with late misses, United had sat back and invited Edgar's equaliser by the time it arrived. Chelsea, for all their current turmoil, have been offered a reprieve.

Goals: Milner (33) 1-0; Scholes (40) 1-1; Scholes (46) 1-2; Edgar (74) 2-2.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Solano, Taylor, Huntington, Edgar; Dyer, Emre (Pattison, 87), Parker, Milner; Sibierski, Martins. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Luque, O'Brien, Carroll.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Fletcher (Carrick, 78), Scholes, Giggs; Rooney, Saha (Park, 36). Substitutes not used: Heaton (gk), Heinze, O'Shea.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire)

Booked: Manchester United Scholes, Neville; Newcastle Parker.

Man of the match: Parker.

Attendance: 52,302.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game