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Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010

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Strong start: Manchester United's Darren Fletcher (second from left) scores past Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini in their Premier League match at Old Trafford on Monday night. Man United won 3-0. AP PHOTO

Man United dominates in opener

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United began its bid for a record-breaking 19th English league title by cruising to a 3-0 victory over promoted Newcastle on Monday night.

Ryan Giggs extended his record of scoring in every season since the Premier League's inception in 1992 by volleying home in the 85th minute.

Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher hit first-half goals, but Wayne Rooney went a 13th match for United and England without scoring.

While United is trying to regain the Premier League trophy from Chelsea, Newcastle's priority is survival after bouncing straight back up following a season in the League Championship.

"The most important thing in the first game is to win and, even though we could have scored more, we'll take that," United midfielder Paul Scholes said. "When we scored we were a constant threat after that and moved them around quite a lot."

After a lackluster World Cup, Rooney started equally forlornly in the Premier League — curling wide of the target after meeting Nani's neat back-heeled pass.

United winger Nani's deflected attempt went wide before Newcastle midfielder Alan Smith flung his body in the way of John O'Shea's shot. Rooney dragged a shot wide after meeting a free kick and then sent a close-range volley over from Berbatov's header.

Berbatov put United in front in the 33rd minute.

Newcastle defender Jose Enrique inadvertently directed Scholes' through ball to Berbatov, who steadied himself and then dispatched the ball into the far corner past goalkeeper Steve Harper from an acute angle.

Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton could have equalized when Nani lost possession on the edge of the penalty area, but he went for goal rather than attempting to pick out better-placed teammates and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made a comfortable save.

It proved to be a costly misjudgment with United extending its lead in the 41st.

Nani sent Patrice Evra racing into the penalty area and, although Rooney could not control the France defender's low cross, he managed to nudge the ball for Darren Fletcher to turn Fabricio Coloccini on the edge of the area and find the net.

"We just had to tire them out as much as we could," Scholes said. "The second half especially, I really enjoyed that: creating chances, looking like we were going to score whenever we went forward."

But Rooney, who last scored against Bayern Munich in March, continued to look uneasy in front of goal and was replaced in the 63rd minute by new signing and Mexico forward Javier Hernandez.

United manager Alex Ferguson hailed the enduring midfield influence of the 35-year-old Scholes.

"He showed at his age, you don't lose what he's got: passing, vision — and he's still got a good appetite for the game," Ferguson said.

Messi knocked

BUENOS AIRES (AP) Lionel Messi has been chided by Argentina teammate Martin Palermo, who claims the Barcelona star lacks the leadership qualities that Diego Maradona had when he led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title.

Palermo even compared Maradona's humble roots in growing up in a Buenos Aires slum to Messi's youth, which was spent playing for Barcelona.

"Messi isn't Maradona," Palermo said Monday on America TV. "To me, Messi does not have Maradona's mentality. He's not prepared to carry the team.

"He (Messi) is not one to take the role of leader. He won't do it because he's not used to this position. He grew up in another way, he's lived differently. He's been with Barcelona since he was 12."

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