Manchester United continued in rich goalscoring form with an Old Trafford rout of Portsmouth.The result, hardly unexpected, piles pressure on Chelsea to beat Arsenal at Stamford Bridge tomorrow with United now a point clear. Having scored 15 goals in the past fortnight, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men now have significant momentum in the Premier League title race.
Fixtures don’t come any easier than this. Portsmouth, doomed to relegation and probable financial meltdown, proved easy pickings for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. Indeed, while the South Coast club fought valiantly, a home win was never in doubt once Wayne Rooney opened the scoring five minutes before half time.
Further – deflected – goals from Nani and Michael Carrick, as well as a Dimitar Berbatov strike and an own goal wrapped up a comfortable win for Ferguson’s men. All five goals came in the space of 30 minutes either side of half time.
Sir Alex Ferguson restored Dimitar Berbatov to the starting line-up, after the £30 million Bulgarian striker lay in wait on the bench during United’s recent victories over Manchester City and Arsenal. The former-Tottenham Hotspur man, involved in the thick of the action, contributed fully as United thumped the Premier League’s basement side.
Yet Avram Grant’s side could have score twice before United’s opener. First, Edwin van der Sar turned away Anthony Vanden Borre’s strike and then the impressive Johnny Evans turned away Nadir Belhadj shot from distance.
The Northern Irishman excelled in the absence of new England captain Rio Ferdinand and his partner in physio Nemanja Vidic, who again ruled himself out of today’s game.
Fortunately for the home side Carrick’s ability to keep the ball moving proved the pivotal influence on the match as United’s patience wore down The Israeli’s visitors.
Rooney headed in Darren Fletcher’s right-wing cross to open the scoring before half-time as the floodgates opened. In-form Nani then added a second, as Vanden Borre turned in the Portuguese’s cross minutes later. Carrick’s 25-yard left-footer was deflected in off the crossbar by Richard Hughes to beat the returning David James. And Marc Wilson lashed Patrice Evra’s centre into the net for United’s fifth.
The best strike of the match, however, came on the hour as Berbatov swiveled on the edge of the area to lash home. Earlier the striker had missed an open goal from just yards out. Such are his mercurial talents.
“It took us a while to get the first goal, but we had a lot of pressure, a lot of possession and we were patient enough,” Ferguson told MUTV.
“I think that’s important, especially when teams come and sit there, like they did today.
“They were there to make it difficult and eventually we got the goal just before half time. We were fortunate with the second one, but that was important. It opened the game for us and in the second half we had a good peformance.”
Ferguson praised Berbatov’s performance, although it is likely the Bulgarian will drop to the bench for United’s trip to Aston Villa in midweek.
“It was a magnificent goal, absolutely brilliant,” said the Old Trafford boss.
“The confidence it brought to his game after that was brilliant. It was good to take him off, because he got the applause from the crowd and it was terrific. He’s had a good performance today.”
So on to Birmingham this coming Wednesday for a crucial match in the Premier League run-in. With the goal difference suitably boosted, United will travel to the second city on the title summit should Chelsea failed to beat the Gunners in tomorrow’s tea-time fixture.