Date:Tuesday August 26 2008
Now the season has started in earnest. It seems we managed to avoid the desperately slow start of the last campaign as we picked up three points at Fratton Park, something we failed to do last season.
As I had predicted, United started with a central midfield of Scholes and O'Shea but Fergie included Anderson as well, possibly to give us more authority and greater passing range in midfield.
It worked quite well and though Portsmouth's muscle men tried to harass us they had no idea how to stop us stroking the ball around comfortably. Their one-dimensional football caused very little trouble, as both Vidic and Ferdinand dealt comfortably with Crouch who was reduced to complain every time a decision went against him.
Set-pieces were Pompey's main threat and from a corner after a defensive cock-up they almost snatched the lead, with Kaboul heading just wide. But it was Portsmouth's only real chance while they had serious difficulties with containing a quite mobile United team. Rooney came close in the 4th minute, Distin's last-ditch tackle prevented Anderson from tapping the ball in and finally, in the 32nd minute, the breakthrough came.
It was little surprise that Tevez was the orchestrator as the little Argentinian was once again a thorn in the Portsmouth side nad his brilliant siderule pass found Evra on the left. The Frenchman's low cross wasn't bad, it found Fletcher who scuffed it towards the goal. James tried to beat it away but failed and Distin made a desperate attempt to clear off the line but ended up firing high into his own net.
United should have added a second at the start of the second half but were denied. Of course, I can't say it was because of the referee or his assistant because, as we all know, they ALWAYS help Manchester United. Therefore, it must be Rooney's fault that his perfect piece of finishing was worthless because the assistant, for reasons best known to him, flagged him offside. He was nowhere near offside.
United did not try and rest on their laurels, we tried to add a second goal to completely knock the stuffing out of the lacklustre opposition. A penalty would have been a perfect chance for it but the referee, who, on FA instructions, ALWAYS help United, failed to see that Campbell simply hacked down Rooney in the area after Evra's scuffed pass. Oh well.
As the last 15 minutes were approaching, Fergie introduced Rodrigo Possebon, hauling off the tiring Anderson. The youngster went on to play brilliantly: he retrieved the ball from Crouch within seconds of his introduction and he made some really elegant tackles and always distributed the ball calmly and precisely.
With two minutes from time remaining, Chris Foy once again showed how far he's prepared to go to help Manchester United who are always supported by referees: he failed to produce a second yellow card for Bouba Diop who, out of sheer frustration, hacked down the excellent Tevez from behind. Oh well.
Still, we can take great comfort from this victory. We played well, created chances and reduced Portsmouth to long-range efforts (Jerome Thomas' and Diop's weren't bad but easy for Van der Sar). The midfield's lack of width was evident but unsurprising as all four of our wingers were absent. And it was still a relatively easy win.
Rooney is approaching full fitness again, Possebon is definitely a bright talent and now we have almost two weeks until the next league game (who cares about the European Super Cup?) and we'll have more players fit, we'll have Nani back from suspension and, hopefully, we'll have Berbatov in our ranks. Things suddenly look much brighter for the English and European Champions, don't they?
Date:Tuesday August 26 2008
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