Tuesday, August 26, 2008

United's slick passing machine simply too good for Pompey...

Predictably, much has been made of the Reds lack of a cutting edge up front without an obvious out and out striker available to Fergie. But on the evidence of the Champions performance against Portsmouth on Monday night there's little worry about, with Rooney and in particular Carlos Tevez looking razor sharp.

The Reds won the game at Fratton Park courtesy of an excellently worked first-half goal via the combination of Anderson, Evra and Fletcher. However, as TV replays showed Portsmouth's Sol Campbell and Distin helped the ball into the net with the sweetest of touches to ensure that the dubious goal panel will be called into action to adjudicate.

Special mention to Glen Johnson, who was once again cruelly exposed for his defensive frailties by United down the Reds left flank. No doubting part of Fergie's pre-match team talk centres on working the ball around the former Chelsea defender. Without Ronaldo and Nani in the starting line-up, Harry Redknapp will have told his leftback to get forward more, but United had other ideas and this time it was the turn of Patrice Evra to outwit the Pompey defender to supply the killer cross for the only goal of the game.

For those who did not see the match, Rooney was denied a perfectly good second-half goal when the linesman wrongly ruled for off-side. Rooney looked sharp and played his usual all action game, Fergie has suggested that perhaps he needs to be a bit less selfless in his efforts for the team. Question. Is it not strange that United fans rarely complain about Rooney and what he does for the team, yet all the while the Johnny Englander brigade have been constantly harping on about Rooney's game?

Post-match and given the current talk surrounding Berbatov, Sky's Richard Keys posted the question "Do United actually need an out and out striker?". It is a good question, because the combination of Rooney and Tevez coupled with their superb movement leaves defenders not knowing what to do. Should central defenders follow them or pass them on? The danger is by following Tevez and Rooney defenders will leave the door open to United's midfield.

If United do go on to sign Berbatov, the Reds could lose some of the unpredictability of the Tevez/Rooney partnership, but Fergie could of course play one of the three wide, probably Tevez.

Whatever happens in the transfer market, the fans will want to see United continuing to play attractive attacking football as they did for the most part against Portsmouth. The final score flattered Harry Redknapp's team. Pompey were passed off the park, the home team had no answer to the Champions movement and use of the ball.

Anderson, who was returning from his Olympic duties, looked remarkably fresh and his second-half replacement Rodrigo showed yet more promise. It's very early days, but already it's shaping up nicely to what looks like being a probable two-horse race between United and Chelsea.

On a sour note, how Papa Bouba Diop remained on the pitch for its duration only referee Chris Foy knows, because having already been booked for a clumsy challenge Diop should have been sent-off late in the game for another bad tackle. However, on this occasion Foy kept his card in his pocket, but he was happy to brandish it later when Fletcher disputed a decision which went against him. Respect has to be earned, and poor decision making by the officials will not help the FA in their just initiative.

Final score: Portsmouth 0-1 United.
Man of the match: Carlos Tevez.

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