United 2-0 Pompey
Wed 30-01-08, 8pm
We kept the FA cup dream alive with victory over Plymouth at the weekend, tonight we returned to league action and had the simple matter of a routine visit to Old Trafford - easy! Few gave us a chance, and they were proved right...
Sol Campbell - back from injury, Sean Davis and Milan Baros - for his debut - all came in with Hermann Hreidarsson, Pedro Mendes and Dave Nugent making way, all bar Nugent to the bench - but he is injured anyway. This bench was looking threadbare!
2 goals in 3 minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo put United 2-0 up after 13 minutes and it could and probably should have been more in the end.
The pressure was on from United from the start and finally in the 10th minute after we lost the ball too easily in midfield we were opened up and Cristiano Ronaldo made no mistake, slotting past David James.
Minutes later a needless foul by Sol Campbell gave Ronaldo another chance and his fantastically struck effort left James standing with no chance, no one would have saved it though.
We came into the game slightly more after this, the 2nd goal was unstoppable - in terms of its strike - but both were preventable. We were letting ourselves down though by keeping on giving the ball away too cheaply.
Another needlessly conceded free kick gave Ronaldo another chance, but this time James was able to save and then the ball was cleared for a corner. But from this corner Wes Brown had a chance, luckily he volleyed narrowly over.
Noe Pamarot 'took one for the team' when he pulled back Ji-Sung Park who was bursting free after we lost possession on the edge of the United box, and soon after a break from Patrice Evra saw another change come and go for United as Wayne Rooney failed to make a decent enough connection.
Trying to become the architects of our own downfall again a promising free kick saw us play suicidal headers not once, but twice with Lauren then Pamarot the culprits. This allowed United to break at pace and an effort from Nani was well enough struck but the direction was missing otherwise it would have been 3-0.
I was more than pleased when half time came as we were all over the place, and did not look at all like we could get back into the game at all. It was going to take the half time talk of all half time talks to change things around...
2 changes were made at half time off went Lauren and Sylvain Distin - who must have been injured and on came Arnold Mvuemba and Hermann Hreidarsson.
A decent break from us early in the 2nd half could not quite see Benjani get his shot or pass away, then James as called into action again saving from Rio Ferdinand's header.
Campbell just was not on his game and another mistake - and a very poor one at that - gifted Rooney a chance, luckily for us his lob over James did not have the power and he was able to get back and safely claim it before it went in.
We were better in the 2nd half and at least threatened a little but United still had half chances and forced James into a couple of routine saves but James again showed his class with a double save as United poured forward, Pamarot then made a fantastic saving challenge with a goal looking nailed on.
The final Pompey change came with 12 minutes to play, off went Milan Baros with Richard Hughes coming on to a chorus of boos - clearly we were 'happy' to settle for a 2-0 defeat...
United had further chances in the closing minutes with Anderson going the closest, as his effort drifted inches wide.
No doubt Harry Redknapp will give a 'anything you get from United or any of the top 4 is a bonus' speech... Yep, maybe this is true but this does not cover the lacklustre performance that we saw for most of the game.
Defeat to United at Old Trafford is nothing to be ashamed of, but the 1st half showing was. We had no heart or spirit and seemed to lack ambition and effort, and kept giving the ball away cheaply which was causing our own problems as well as United played. The 2nd half was better though, but 2-0 could and probably should have been worse to be honest - so we were bloody lucky on that score. But - there is always a but - both the goals that were scored were avoidable, but the free kick strike - that was needlessly given away - from Cristiano Ronaldo was unstoppable, probably the best free kick I have seen...
For large periods we 'carried' too many which was a worry, but not as much as losing Sylvain Distin at half time, which must have been due to injury? Lassana Diarra was again the pick of the bunch for us.
A word on the travelling Pompey fans who were again fantastic, they never stopped singing for the whole game.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
United 2 - Cristiano Ronaldo 10, 13
Sylvain Distin (Hermann Hreidarsson 45)
Lauren (Arnold Mvuemba 45)
Milan Baros (Richard Hughes 78)
Substitutes Not Used