That Owen chance was indeed the final act of this Premier League opener at Old Trafford. Champions United take all three points without ever getting out of second gear, and Birmingham will play much much worse this season and win.
90+3 Rooney puts Owen clean through on goal with a delightful chested flick. He tries to sidefoot past Hart but the goalkeeper saves and the ball goes out for a corner.
90+3 Valencia fires a shot from 25 yards out - plenty of power but well wide. He's had a decent home debut.
90+2 Valencia plays in Owen but he'd gone a moment too soon and is flagged for offside. He nets to cheers from the Old Trafford faithful, but no goal.
90+1 Giggs finds Rooney and his shot from the edge of the box is deflected. Birmingham clear as Owen waits to pounce. We're now in the first of three added minutes.
90 O'Shea finds space down the Birmingham right but his cross is easy meat for Foster.
90 Rooney tries to angle a pass into Owen in the Birmingham box but it's cut out. Into the final minute of the 90.
89 Valencia plays the ball infield to Scholes 25 yards from goal but he's muscled off the ball.
89 Brown wins a United throw on halfway as we head toward stoppage time.
88 Benitez tries to find space but Fletcher dispossesses him.
87 Evra appears to do really well to get to an Owen pass first, but is penalised for a high boot.
86 Carr has a crossing chance from the right but fails to get it right. Looping high ball that Foster claims easily at the back post.
85 Nice build-up by Birmingham ends as Evra tenaciously outbattles O'Shea.
84 Going towards the final five minutes, and still just a one-goal lead for the champions.
83 Giggs twists and turns before curling in a cross that the straining Rooney meets with a flicked header. Just a yard wide with Hart struggling.
82 Rooney tries a very speculative effort from 25 yards out -
way off target.
82 James O'Shea replaces Larsson to make his Blues debut.
81 Valencia is in quickly and almost dispossesses Queudrue. BIrmingham survive though.
80 Space opens up for Evra in the Birmingham box, but Vignal arrives just in time to block his shot.
80 Patient build-up sees Valencia tee up Scholes, but his drive is blocked by Queudrue for yet another United corner.
79 Benitez almost makes a sensational impact - beats the United offside trap, cuts inside Brown and forces Foster to make a superb save with an angled shot. Corner to Birmingham - easy catch for Foster. Major warning for the champions there.
78 Fletcher loses out to Carr and he breaks forward to the edge of the United box. But there's nobody up in support and his cross is blocked by Brown.
77 United building patiently - will be interesting to see what sort of impact Owen makes.
76 Yellow card for Fletcher for a foul on Fahey as we go into the final 15 minutes with Birmingham still very much in this one.
75 Christian Benitez gets his Birmingham debut as he replaces Carsley. Meanwhile United bring on Owen and Wes Brown in place of Berbatov and Evans.
74 McFadden's cross is just behind O'Connor - if it hadn't United may have been in trouble.
74 Birmingham again break, and this time a cross comes in from the left. Evans clears for United.
73 Ball breaks nicely for Scholes just outside the box but he tries to chip Hart. Doesn't get enough elevation though - easy for the Birmingham goalkeeper.
72 Foster again flaps, this time at a Larsson cross, but he does get enough on it to clear. Then Ferguson's angled ball is headed out by Evra.
71 United play the corner short and eventually Fabio crosses deep. Berbatov gets up really well to beat Hart with a header, but it's cleared off the line by Carsley. Then a venomous Scholes volley is blocked.
70 Valencia finds Berbatov and he wins a corner. Meanwhile Michael Owen and Anderson are getting ready to come on.
69 Birmingham put together what must be around 20 passes before Vignal's deep cross is headed out by Evra. Then Carr crosses to the back post but Foster claims.
68 Birmingham knocking the ball around really well at present - and that United lead is still only one. They really need a second.
67 McFadden curls the free-kick in with plenty of venom and Foster flaps a little as he beats it away. Rooney tries to set Valencia away on the break but Birmingham have plenty of men back.
66 Giggs penalised for a push on Carr as the Birmingham man drives for the line. McFadden to take - decent position.
65 Substitution for Birmingham, as Garry O'Connor comes to replace Jerome.
64 Nice build-up play involving Larsson and McFadden sets up an excellent shooting chance for the Scot on the edge of the box.
But Foster is well positioned on the edge of his six-yard box and makes a low, diving save.
63 Berbatov penalised for a push on Jerome in the Birmingham box.
62 Valencia skins Vignal but his low cross is cleared and then Birmingham concede yet another corner.
61 The corner from Giggs is cleared to Scholes, and he hammers in a volley from just outside the box. Blocked by the Blues defence.
60 Giggs curls the free-kick towards goal and it flicks off the head of Jerome in the wall. United corner, Giggs again to take.
59 Rooney has a great chance to play in Berbatov on goal. But as he overhits the pass he's taken to ground by a late challenge from Vignal. Free-kick United in a central position just outside the box and Vignal gets a yellow card.
58 Good break from Blues. Ferguson finds Larsson on the right and he waits patiently before squaring to Fahey in space 25 yards out. He shoots low and just wide of the United goal with Foster scrambling across. Not for the first time the visitors providing some sort of threat in attack. Too much space for Fahey there from a United perspective.
57 Loose pass from Evans, who gives the ball away just inside the Birmingham half. Blues build patiently but eventually O'Shea breaks up the attack.
56 Scholes tries to drive a ball towards Valencia on the right but it's overhit and out for a goal-kick to the visitors.
55 Evans shows a decent turn of pace to outstrip Jerome and play the ball back to Foster.
54 Johnson - under pressure from Berbatov - misses his attempted header back to Hart, but gets a second chance and hacks the ball away this time.
53 The Giggs corner is headed out to Fabio some 30 yards out. He controls the ball and shoots but while he gets the required power the direction is not there - well over Hart's bar.
52 Rooney curls a cross towards Berbatov at the back post but Queudrue does really well to head out for a United corner. Pressure building.
52 Valencia teases Vignal before putting in a decent cross, but Johnson gets there before Rooney and heads clear.
51 Giggs crosses into the Birmingham box and Berbatov can't quite control. Audacious attempt to fashion a chance from the Bulgarian. He's had his moments, but it's not quite clicking for him so far. Bit like last season.
51 Carr crosses low into the United box and Foster claims easily
on the edge of his six-yard box.
50 Carr angles a ball towards Larsson in the United box but Fabio is there to clear.
49 Free-kick to Birmingham as Fabio fouls McFadden near the centre circle.
48 Valencia surges towards the Birmingham box but he's stopped an excellent challenge from McFadden - been very impressed by the Birmingham man this afternoon. Has looked lively in attack and defended well when required.
47 Very muted Old Trafford crowd so far this half, waiting for things to hot up on the pitch.
46 Rooney almost produces a stunning start to the second half. He turns and fires in a wonderful volley from fully 35 yards out. Hart has to be alert to push it round a post.
46 Immediate chance for Giggs to make an impact but his attempted pass is straight to Carr.
46 Back out for the second half at Old Trafford, and the main interval news is that Nani has been replaced by Ryan Giggs.
Lee Holland in Harrogate says: "United are all over birmigham and should have scored more goals in the first half, i think in the second haalf fergie should bring on owen for berbatov then the goals will come from rooney and owen from."
First half-time mail comes from Jamie Hann, who says: "I'm no chav or anything, but get Micheal Owen on init. At the end of the day United are getting loads of chances and who better to finish them than one of the best finishers around? If Owen comes on soonish i can really see him bagging a couple no doubt and i reckon Fergie is thinking exactly the same thing."
Not surprisingly the odds are pretty prohibitive at the break. Sky Bet now go 1/20 United, 9/1 the draw and 66s for a shock Brum comeback. Their spokesman says: "It's been pretty one-sided so far, but United haven't had too many chances. Rooney's goal may open things up - it's even money now that there will be Over 2.5 goals in the match. Having cost us a small fortune by scoring the opener, Rooney is 7/2 to score the next goal."
Half-time whistle at Old Trafford, with the champions leading the newly-promoted side 1-0. They should definitely be further ahead, but Blues have produced enough to suggest the game isn't over yet. Send your half-time mails to email@example.com and I'll print the best.
45+1 Awful miss from Fletcher. Nani and Evra team up beautifully for the latter to square to the Scot - waiting 10 yards from goal with a gaping goal in front of him. He slices his shot wide.
Should have been 2-0 - no question as Fergie might say.
45+1 Fabio has a great chance to play in Valencia on the right but gets it horribly wrong and Lee Carsley slides in to clear for Blues. We're into a minute of added time at the end of this first half.
45 Blues play it long for Jerome but he can't collect and the ball goes through to Foster.
44 Larsson curls a whipping free-kick into the United box and Berbatov heads out.
43 Valencia fouls Vignal and Blues have a free-kick on their left near the United box. Chance to level it up before the break?
42 Lovely ball from Scholes finds Valencia on the right, but he can't quite capitalise. He can't give United everything Ronaldo provided, but he's looked lively so far and very direct.
41 Berbatov finds Valencia out on the right, but he's been penalised for a high boot. Unlucky, as Vignal had his head virtually on the floor.
40 Fletcher plays a clever ball inside Vignal, trying to find the run of Valencia. Just overhit though and Hart comes out to claim.
39 Fabio again tries to make tracks down the right, before Valencia finds Fletcher. His cross is blocked.
38 United may have dominated this half but Alex McLeish certainly won't be downhearted by events so far. His team have created enough to give hope for the second half, and it looks like this might be the best time to catch United.
37 Valencia fires goalwards from 25 yards out but his shot is deflected and eventually ends up with Hart.
36 Unlucky that for Birmingham - they came so close to an equaliser there. McFadden in particular has made the most of his few opportunities so far.
35 Birmingham so close to an instant reply. The excellent McFadden picks up the ball in midfield and finds Jerome just outside the box. He fires a venomous low shot which flicks off Scholes and goes inches wide Foster's goal. Then Larsson's corner finds Queudrue for a free header. He arrows an effort towards the net with Foster well beaten. But Evra is perfectly positioned to head off the line. Cracking couple of minutes.
34 GOAL ROONEY - The pressure was building and the breakthrough had to come. Long ball forward is headed on to Berbatov by Rooney. Berbatov heads it immediately out to Nani in space on the left. His tantalising cross is headed against the post by Rooney, who has continued his run into the box. The rebound falls perfectly for him and he taps home from a couple of yards out with Hart helpless. Deserved lead for the champions, and Rooney's 99th goal for United.
33 Nice interchange between Valencia and O'Shea almost sets up Berbatov - yet another United corner. They play it short and Evra is free to square for Nani 12 yards out. He has bags of time but produces a shocking effort. Flicked with the outside of his right foot, way over the bar. Awful.
32 Almost the opening goal. Fabio gets past Vignal on the right and crosses low. Hart spills it but Johnson clears away from Berbatov for a corner.
31 Scholes goes with a shocking tackle on Barry Ferguson and gets a talking-to from ref Lee Mason. No card though.
30 Poor set-pieces from United so far, that's one area they'll find it hard not to miss one C Ronaldo. Fergie by the way is already pointing at his watch. An hour to go and he reckons Blues are playing for time.
29 Nani's corner is cleared, but only as far as Fletcher. He crosses to the back post for O'Shea, but Cameron Jerome heads out for another United corner. It's a shocker - a misunderstanding between Nani and Fletcher. Vignal clears for Blues.
28 The lively Valencia wins a corner from the tenacious Vignal.
27 Nani, very quiet so far, cracks a 25-yarder goalwards. Well-struck, but straight at Hart who makes a comfortable catch.
26 Evra crosses deep to the back post and the flailing Hart misses his punch. Fortunately for Blues though, McFadden is there to clear from the waiting Valencia.
25 Fabio gets forward for the first time down the right but Vignal sticks out a leg to concede a corner. O'Shea and Evans come forward. Blues can't clear the corner and Berbatov has a shot blocked.
24 Hart somehow spills the ball with Berbatov bearing down on him, but the flag was up for offside.
23 Valencia's cross is just behind Berbatov and the Bulgarian can't quite bring it under control. Birmingham clear.
22 Rooney cuts in from the left and fires a low shot that bounces into the grateful arms of Hart. Cross may have been the better option there.
21 Vignal has shown admirable to get forward down the Birmingham left and he does so again. Eventually Keith Fahey almost finds Barry Ferguson in space inside the United box with a dinked pass.
Good stuff from Blues.
20 Berbatov tees up Scholes but his shot is deflected wide and the offside flag is up anyway. United's passing has been slick so far, but it's inside the final third they need a bit more conviction.
19 Good five minutes for Blues, who have weathered the early storm and are now enjoying more of the possession.
18 Vignal crosses from the Birmingham left this time - easy claim for Foster.
17 Birmingham break nicely and McFadden produces a super cross from the left - low, curling and into the heart of the United box. Foster is out quickly to claim under pressure from Sebastian Larsson. McFadden has looked lively so far.
16 Quiet spell as the crowd go into a brief slumber and United knock the ball around at the back.
15 Birmingham struggling to keep United at bay in the early stages - the champions looking good so far. Just missing the finishing touch.
14 Birmingham try to build down their left but Fabio does well to put the ball out. Good strength from the young Brazilian.
13 Interesting that Valencia is popping up all over the place in the early stages - has been on the right, the left and enjoying spells in the centre as well. Very fluid United formation.
12 Great effort from Rooney, who surprises Hart by taking a shot early - his curler from 25 yards out almost dips over the keeper. But he arcs backwards and manages to tip the ball over the bar. Excellent save. Corner from United claimed easily by Hart.
11 Chaos in the Birmingham box as Rooney, Berbatov and Nani all have shots blocked. The visitors struggling to stay on level terms here.
10 First sight of Birmingham as an attacking force. James McFadden finds space on the edge of the United box and curls a low right-foot shot just wide of Ben Foster's goal.
9 Birmingham dodge a bullet. Hart's awful clearance is straight to Valencia 35 yards from goal. He plays in Berbatov, but he goes to ground under the challenge from Stephen Carr. Howls from the home fans, but no foul given.
8 United find Patrice Evra in acres of space on the left and his cross-shot is claimed by the diving Joe Hart in Birmingham's goal. Blues lost the Frenchman there - some sort of miscommunication in their defence.
7 Lovely play from Berbatov, who lazily turns away from two defenders just inside the Birmingham half and makes tracks towards the Blues box. He then finds Valencia, who in turn sets up Fletcher for a 20-yard shot on goal. Poor effort from the Scot though - low, mishit and blocked by the Birmingham defence.
6 Another crucial clearance from Queudrue, who stretches really well to clear a left-wing cross from Nani. Good start from the Birmingham defender.
5 Darren Fletcher tries an ambitious flick to find Rooney, but it doesn't fool the Birmingham defence and they mop up. Most of the possession so far to United, as you'd expect.
4 Berbatov holds the ball up well on the United left before crossing towards Wayne Rooney
, but Franck Queudrue clears for Blues. Valencia then skips past Vignal on the United right but his cross is cleared.
3 Nani loses track of where the ball actually is and Birmingham win the ball back just inside their own half.
2 First foul of the game as Gregory Vignal goes in hard on Dimitar Berbatov just over halfway. He's off the field receiving treatment as United knock the ball around. Berbatov comes back on.
1 Birmingham get things under way at Old Trafford. Here we go folks. Good atmosphere, a fascinating 90 minutes in prospect.
Teams are out and just paying a moving tribute in the centre circle, to the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. A minute's applause ringing round the ground. Never has a tribute been more deserved. A great man, sadly missed.
Thanks for your mails people, but time now to concentrate on events on the pitch. Just waiting for the arrival of the two teams - expectation building in the Theatre Of Dreams. Kick-off in just a few minutes.
Good question from Shish in France, who asks: "Where the heck is Carrick? There was no news of an injury! That's another kick in the teeth for my already disappointing fantasy football team this week....really need a Rooney hat-trick to make up for it!" Shish, I'm also a massive Carrick fan. Fergie, interviewed on Sky Sports, has just said there's nothing wrong with him - he just wants to try a new combination in midfield. Rio Ferdinand meanwhile pulled a muscle in training and will have a scan on Monday.
Plenty of pre-match mails today, and the latest says: "Hi im Clive from Omagh in Northern Ireland. Im really excited to see if fergie can finaly get the best out of berbatov this season. I think it could be key to there season." Think you could be right Clive.
Good afternoon to Kirsty in Wales, who isn't a big Ben Foster fan by the sounds of it. She mails in to say: "I believe that Sir Alex Ferguson has made a wrong move by choosing Ben Foster as the goalkeeper in today's match. I think that Foster just simply does not have the skill level of Tomasz Kuszczak. I thought Foster gave a poor performance at the Community Shield match against Chelsea. Kuszczak is the better of the two and I believe he should be given the chance to prove to Man Utd fans that he can be successful like the currently injured Edwin Van der Sar." Well Kirsty, If you ask me Foster's hair is not a patch on that of Kuszczak, but I suppose I'm in a minority by rating grooming in goalkeepers. Thoughts?
The glass is clearly half full for Daniel Povey, who says: "Hello Graham i can see Manchester United winning this one 3-0 I have high hopes of Rooney this season ( hope i haven't jinxed him now ) and i dont think we will miss Ronaldo or Tevez."
We haven't even kicked off yet, and the Berbatov debate is raging already. In reponse to Arif Younis, Kevin Jones roars: "Getting rid of Berba?? Idiot.. !! Had a poor season last year and still scored 9 premier league goals and was top of our assists chart.. !! This season he will be better and him and rooney will destroy teams.. The difference between this year and last year is that Ronaldo is the best player in the world but does not make the team play better.. So therefore he saved us a few times.. This year Rooney and Berbatov are not only awesome players but they make everyone else around them play better football so mark my words we will be better this year.. !!"
Tom Jenkins from Deesside is a Liverpool fan looking for some early favours from elsewhere. "Looking for a birmingham win i am a liverpool fan myself i would like this to be the first giant crushing of the season and also help Liverpool this evening. My prediction 1-0 Utd My hope 2-0 Birmingham."
Message now from dinesh in singapore, who says: "i think man utd wil win 3-1 or 4-0.rooney will score a brace with berbatov and nani finishing off birmingham.valencia wil assist them n it wil be indeed a splendid win." Not splendid for Birmingham though Dinesh.
Next e-mail comes from Andrew Garner in Colintraive, who says: "I am a man utd fan and i can't wait for their season to start. I think the sale of ronaldo will make the premier league more competitve and closer at the top. Ronaldo was a wonderful player for us but i think we still have the edge on chelsea and liverpool. Man utd to beat birmingham 2-0 Berbatov and Nani to score."
A very good evening to Warren Olson from Wellington in New Zealand. He says: "Well its the witching hour here in New Zealand, but Im staying up to watch, and of course read your comments! (I'm flattered Warren). Mainly because I'm on Man-U at the minus a goal to win, [along with Tiger] to complete a nice all up bet! While they may be slow early, I'm predicting class and perhaps Fergies mens fitness, to tell in the final quarter, 3-0, and even expect Owen to nick a goal."
Strong words now from Arif Younis, who tells us: "Man u need to get rid of Berbatov or he needs to get his act together." Little bit early for that don't you think Arif?
First e-mail comes from Shaun Pinder in Hull, who says: "Afternoon Graham, i can see man utd winning 2-0 today and Wayne Rooney
the first goalscorer."
The Birmingham starting XI looks like this: Hart, Carr, Roger Johnson, Queudrue, Vignal, Larsson, Ferguson, Carsley, Fahey, McFadden, Jerome. Subs for Blues are: Maik Taylor, O'Connor, Phillips, Benitez, McSheffrey, Parnaby, O'Shea.
Man Utd line up like this today: Foster, Fabio Da Silva, O'Shea, Jonathan Evans, Evra, Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Nani, Berbatov, Rooney. Subs are: Kuszczak, Brown, Owen, Anderson, Giggs, Gibson, De Laet.
Early look at the pre-match betting, and not surprisingly United rate as hot favourites with Sky Bet at 1/6. Birmingham are a massive 20/1 with the draw a 6/1 shot. Couldn't back United at those odds, especially with the jury still on out on just how good they'll be this term. Also, given the fact they've drawn at home to Reading and Newcastle in their last two openers (sides eventually relegated) those draw odds look a tad tasty to me. Let me know your thoughts.
Pre-match Just over half an hour away from the 1330 BST kick-off at Old Trafford, and I'll be printing the best of your e-mails before we get under way.
Pre-match Team news for United is that Rio Ferdinand is their shock absentee. He returned from England's midweek friendly in Holland with a back injury but is believed to have sustained a calf problem in training which rules him out, leaving John O'Shea to skipper the Red Devils and partner Jonny Evans in central defence. Nani gets the first opportunity to fill the hole left by fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo, while Antonio Valencia makes his debut, as does England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has joined Birmingham on loan from Manchester City.
Pre-match Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of Manchester United's Premier League opener against Birmingham City at Old Trafford. How will the champions fare without Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez? We'll start to find out this afternoon.
Team news to follow shortly.
Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of Manchester United's Premier League opener against Birmingham City at Old Trafford. How will the champions fare without Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez? We'll start to find out this afternoon. Team news to follow shortly.