Cristiano Ronaldo News

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Report: United 3 Portsmouth 0

04/11/2006 16:43, Report by Steve Bartram

United celebrated Sir Alex Ferguson's 20th anniversary in charge with a stylish win over injury-hit Portsmouth at Old Trafford.

The visitors were well beaten within the opening 10 minutes thanks to goals from Louis Saha from the penalty spot and Cristiano Ronaldo's scorching free-kick, before Nemanja Vidic scored his second Reds goal after the interval.

The marriage of entertainment and fortitude instilled by Sir Alex over the course of his two decades was highly evident as United served up a feast of attacking football throughout the 90 minutes.

Following the Reds' midweek humbling against FC Copenhagen in Denmark, Sir Alex reverted to the exact starting XI which demolished Bolton last weekend. And, just as they did at the Reebok Stadium, United hurtled out of the traps and began forging openings almost immediately.

A mere three minutes had elapsed when Gary Neville's quick throw caught the Pompey defence napping. Wayne Rooney latched onto the ball and managed to get on the wrong side of Dejan Stefanovic, who clumsily bundled the 21-year-old to the ground.

Referee Mike Dean took an agonisingly long look at the situation before awarding the spot-kick, which Saha emphatically slotted past David James.

Five minutes of United pressure later, the Reds doubled their advantage. Again referee Dean was central to the goal, having deemed that Saha had been fouled by Andy O'Brien 25 yards from goal.

Having scored United's goal of the season in the Reds' visit to Fratton Park last February, Ronaldo once again made Harry Redknapp's side suffer with an early contender for this season's title. Adopting his trademark short-step run up, the Portuguese winger rifled an unstoppable, swerving drive past the despairing dive of David James.

Just as a week earlier, United could smell more goals and were frenzied in their pursuit of them. Gary Neville, outstanding all afternoon, came closest with a close-range effort which James did well to keep out.

Liberated by the visitors' lack of attacking ambition, the Reds skipper bombarded forward in support of his colleagues on countless occasions. He was denied again by James shortly afterwards, as too was defensive cohort Rio Ferdinand, as United's momentum continued without any signs of slowing.

The visitors did almost sneak back into the game just before the interval, however. Niko Kranjcar's corner was only cleared as far as Matthew Taylor. The left-back hammered a stinging 25-yard shot through a posse of players, and an unsighted Edwin van der Sar did superbly to fist the ball over the bar and to safety.

Just after the interval, buoyed by a new sense of purpose and the arrival of substitute Andy Cole as a second striker, the visitors again came close through Benjani Mwaruwari and a glaring miss from Kranjcar.

Those efforts bookended further United opportunities, with Rooney, Scholes and Vidic all denied by James or just off target.

Rooney again came close after a winding run and left-footed effort before United made the game safe through Vidic's first goal at Old Trafford. Neville was integral to the strike, his perfect cross needed little more than a furrowed brow to take it past James. As it was, the Serbian rocketed the ball in with a hammer of a header.

The pattern of the game was fragmented slightly by a pocket of substitutions - three per side all told - but United continued to fashion near-chances, while Pompey offered little resistance.

Darren Fletcher, one of the replacements, came close with a curling left-footed effort while van der Sar helped a Gary O'Neil free-kick around the post.

Matthew Taylor also rolled an effort narrowly wide after van der Sar had uncharacteristically spilled the ball, but Pompey just couldn't find a way to put the slightest tarnish on a great day for United and their long-serving manager.

Team Line-ups

United: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Carrick (Silvestre, 71), Scholes, Ronaldo (Fletcher, 75), Giggs, Rooney (O'Shea, 75), Saha.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Brown.

Portsmouth: James, Pamarot, O'Brien, Stefanovic, Taylor, Mendes, Davis, Kranjcar (Hughes, 84), Fernandes (Cole, 46), O'Neil, Mwaruwari (LuaLua, 66).
Subs not used: Kiely, Kanu.

Attendance: 76,004.


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