Following a draw with Everton in 1999 and win over Newcastle in 2000, Beckham scored in yet another opening fixture, in 2001.
However, this time, the headlines belonged to Ruud van Nistelrooy. The deadly Dutchman had already got off the mark on his debut in the Community Shield against Liverpool but this was his league bow and he started as he meant to go on by claiming a double in a 3-2 home success against Fulham. The Cottagers’ main man was Louis Saha, who hit a brace; by the opening fixture of 2006/07, he had switched sides and netted in a 5-1 beating of the west Londoners, with Wayne Rooney notching a double.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s solitary goal saw off West Brom in 2002 and then Giggs was on the mark again in 2003 – hitting a brace, including a marvellous free-kick, in the 4-0 beating of Bolton Wanderers.
United faced two future managers in the next two opening fixtures. Jose Mourinho’s first game as Chelsea boss in 2004 was the Blues’ 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge. Twelve months later, David Moyes, then at the Everton helm, was on the receiving end of the Reds’ 2-0 away win with Rooney netting against his former club.
Following a goalless draw with Reading in 2007, Sir Alex’s men hosted Newcastle United on the first weekend twice in three seasons, drawing 1-1 in 2008/09 and seeing them off 3-0 in 2010/11. Darren Fletcher was on the scoresheet in both games against the Magpies; sandwiched in between those openers was a narrow win over Birmingham City.
David De Gea’s rude introduction to the rigours of English league football ended with a battling 2-1 win at West Brom in 2011, before another meeting with Moyes’ Everton resulted in a rare opening-game defeat for United. Marouane Fellaini, who would later follow his boss in joining the Reds, scored the only goal at Goodison Park.