Pearce exploits photo finish

Manchester United 1 Manchester City 1
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The Independent Football

Stuart Pearce duly obliged the teenager's request, and then made his moment by then asking a passing United official to take a photograph of the pair, before reconvening a post-mortem with the waiting media into a contest that would, but for an exceptional save from Edwin van der Sar in stoppage time, have resulted in Andrew Cole giving Manchester City their first victory at United for 31 years.

Changing times, indeed, at least for those in blue. For United, not only had their 100 per cent start to the season been taken by stubborn local rivals, but from the evidence of what occurred out on the pitch came the galling realisation that, for all the early season promise and conviction, not much has changed at all. Still letting two points slip while Chelsea keep on winning and still unable to convince without Roy Keane in the team.

Yet it was a good day for the Patent Office. Last week Sir Alex Ferguson applied to register "Fergie" as a trademark, and it will be a formality if the application includes a refusal to give credit where it is due and a failure to find a game plan to foil the resilience of defensive opponents who adhere rigidly to theirs.

"It would have been ridiculous had that gone in," said Ferguson, in relation to Cole's 92nd-minute effort that Van der Sar somehow clawed from beneath his top corner, before lamenting how United's domination was unfairly rewarded against opponents who "just packed themselves on the edge of their box, hoping for scraps" and "scored with their first shot of the game".

Such an assessment has been aired regularly at Old Trafford in recent years, although in this instance it represented a gross exaggeration of United's superiority.

The managers exchanged handshakes and points. "He gave me a grim well done and I gave him a grim well done because we both thought we should have won," said Pearce, but no traditional post-match drink due to the City manager's abstinence and also a series of disputes from his days as a Nottingham Forest player.

United did dominate possession but rarely threatened to pressure City into submission or, Wayne Rooney's second-half performance apart, engineer a way through disciplined opponents. A damaging draw with Keane on the bench was another familiar frustrating theme, and one United will hear more often with the Irishman now in his 35th year. With Villarreal and Liverpool up this week the decision to rest United's captain was realistic, yet one that sacrificed precious ground in the Premiership for the Champions' League.

United went ahead with the final touch of the first half when Ruud van Nistelrooy diverted Paul Scholes' free-kick away from the initial dive of David James and, once denied by a fabulous reaction stop, converted the rebound. City's equaliser arrived with 14 minutes remaining when Van der Sar foiled Cole for the first time, but looked on helplessly as Darius Vassell returned the loose ball and Joey Barton diverted the ball home.

Goals: Van Nistelrooy (45) 1-0; Barton (76) 1-1.

Manchester United (4-3-2-1): Van der Sar; O'Shea, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze; Fletcher (Keane, 76 ), Smith (Richardson, 86), Scholes; Rooney, Park (Giggs, 80); Van Nistelrooy. Substitutes not used: Howard, Bardsley.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Mills (Jihai, 72), Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; Sinclair, Reyna, Barton, Musampa (Sibierski, 72); Cole, Vassell (Fowler, 83). Substitutes not used: Weaver, Onuoha.

Referee: Steve Bennett.

Booked: Manchester Utd Van Nistelrooy; Manchester City Mills, Thatcher, Reyna.

Man of the match: Claudio Reyna.

Attendance: 67,839.