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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

While the goal itself was not pretty in Manchester United’s
1-0 victory away from home, it was a result they certainly
deserved thanks to a game full of impressive possession.
Still missing Cristiano Ronaldo and his more vertical, pace-
filled runs down the field, the Reds hounded Pompey
out of possession in the midfield and let their backs run
freely down the flanks while Carlos Tevez hung back and
controlled possession above the box. Tevez looked strong
on the ball in his first game of the season, although at
times he was more content to dance around instead of
making a hard cut and putting some more pressure on
David James in goal.
Portsmouth is going to have a rough night of sleep, and
their dreams are most likely going to include Wes Brown
and Patrice Evra streaking down the wings with the ball
…again…and again…and again.
It was Evra going down the left in the 32nd minute that
gave United the lead when he crossed the ball into the
middle. It appeared that Sol Campbell was the main
reason the ball went into the net, but Darren Fletcher
was given credit for the strike, as he was sliding in as
well. Regardless, James was helplessly forced to watch
the ball bounce away from him toward the right side of
the net, where a defender tried to clear but succeeded
only in smashing it into the roof of the net.
Pompey looked decent in the first half, and Peter Crouch
almost had a chance near the goal, but Evra got to the
bouncing ball just in time (although his poke might have
been goal-bound had Edwin van der Sar not reacted quickly).
But United’s possession took over in the second half,
particularly along the left where Evra and Tevez seemed
to be toying with the defense at times. Evra must have
been released down that side at least six or seven times during
the game, and Portsmouth was unable to consistently stop those
threats. United’s defense was its usual solid self, and although
Pompey had a few free kicks near the end, there was not much
drama on that end during the final 45 minutes.
A question heading into the game was how Wayne Rooney
would play, and if he would heed his manager’s advice to waste
less time upfield and more near the goal.
Rooney looked solid this game, and he was making the back-
post run on Evra’s cross before Fletcher scored it. He also
displayed a deft touch-and-turn in the second half while
posted up at the top of the box and should have done better
from straight-on (he curled it too far left). And while he didn’t
come out with a goal, that was more the linesman’s fault, who
called a clearly onside Rooney off when he slipped behind and
had beaten James with a deft touch of the outside of his foot
for a would-have-been goal.
Rooney had another opportunity in the first half that went
right to James, and the performance as a whole was more
threatening than the opener against Newcastle.
That said, United can certainly use a Berbatov up front, alth-
ough it appears they might be paying a pretty penny….more
to come on that later. What did you think? Impressed by United?
Did they deserve the victory? Do you think they need Berbatov
to take the title after seeing today's game?

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