Manchester United and Newcastle
meet in the first televised game of the season.
The noun of spendthrift could not be levelled at the Red Devils boss Alex Ferguson, but then again, six Premiership titles in eight years proves that the Scot's relative parsimony has not harmed his teams prowess in the top flight. Besides, when Ferguson thinks the player is right, the money has materialised in Manchester with Barthez costing L7.8 million and previous purchases including Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke not exactly cheap.
Conversely, previous Newcastle bosses have never been afraid to splash the readies in an attempt to buy success, but Bobby Robson appears to be applying caution in the transfer market. Many thought that a flood of transfers would ensue after Cort was snapped up for L7 million pounds by the Toon Army, but Newcastle settled upon the former Don alongside Argentineans' Daniel Cordone and Christian Bassedas as the only new arrivals into St James' Park.
With both sides turning out much like last season, expect goals in this high-octane clash. Manchester United outgunned all their competitors in the Premiership by slamming in 97 goals throughout 1999-2000, which was a massive 24 more than their nearest rivals, second-placed Arsenal. Interestingly, despite Newcastle's mid-table finish, the Toon Army netted the third highest tally of strikes, averaging over 1.5 goals per game.
Rather ironically, Ferguson's champions-elect and Robson's wannabe-title holders both have a score to settle after last season's meetings. Newcastle will be seeking to avenge their 5-1 humiliation at Old Trafford in September last year while the Red Devils will keen to exorcise their 3-0 drubbing suffered at St James' Park in February - their last Premiership defeat.
Fortunately for Robson, there are some signs, although limited, which bode well for the Geordies. Although it has been an amazing 32 games since anyone has kept a clean sheet against the red machine at Old Trafford - a record that stretches over the past two championship campaigns - the last team to do so was Newcastle, when they held their illustrious hosts to a goalless draw in November 1998. However, the bookies do not go along with the gods, only offering 9/2 on the Magpies stopping the Red Devils from scoring.
With the frontline of Yorke and Andy Cole bagging 39 Premiership goals last season, despite some indifferent form at times, Newcastle face an uphill task to get anything out of their opening game. But, the defending champions have been known to start the new season slowly on occasions, drawing 1-1 at Everton in 1999-2000 and scraping a 2-2 home draw with Leicester in 1998-99, so Robson will be telling himself and his men that anything is possible.
In terms of summer spending, one might have expected this clash to be bursting with new talent on the pitch. But, fans will just have to be satisfied with French international 'keeper Fabien Barthez attempting to snub out the danger of England under-21 international striker Carl Cort when