Wayne Rooney fired defending champion Manchester United to a 1-0 victory over promoted Birmingham in its opening Premier League game on Sunday.

The England striker headed a cross from Nani against the post and the ball came back for him to tap into an empty net in the 34th minute at Old Trafford. United is trying to become the first topflight English team to win the league title four seasons in a row.

Michael Owen should have marked his first Premier League appearance for United with a goal in injury time when he broke clear of the Birmingham defense from Rooney's flick-on but his shot was deflected wide by Birmingham goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Sunday's other game between Tottenham and Liverpool kicks off later.

Although Birmingham went close to scoring three times and United goalkeeper Ben Foster made a top quality one-handed save to keep out Christian Benitez's shot in the 78th minute, Alex Ferguson's team should have won by a wider margin.

Darren Fletcher missed the target from close range just before halftime, Hart saved a 30-meter shot from Rooney and Lee Carsley cleared off the line from Dimitar Berbatov in the second half before the Bulgarian was replaced by Owen with 16 minutes to go. Minutes earlier Berbatov, appeared to be tripped inside the area by Stephen Carr.

Arsenal's 6-1 victory at Everton was the highlight performance of Saturday's opening day, captain Cesc Fabregas netting twice and defender Thomas Vermaelen scoring on his debut.

Manchester City justified its big preseason spending with a 2-0 victory at Blackburn thanks to a third minute strike by one of the new signings, Emmanuel Adebayor, while Didier Drogba scored twice for Chelsea, including an injury time winner, in a 2-1 victory over Hull.

In Saturday's other games, Wigan won 2-0 at Aston Villa, West Ham triumphed 2-0 at promoted Wolves, Fulham beat Portsmouth 1-0, Sunderland won 1-0 at Bolton and Stoke beat promoted Burnley 2-0.

More In: Football | Sport