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Manchester United’s treble dream is over as Portsmouth triumph at Old Trafford



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Manchester United 0 v 1 Portsmouth
FA Cup, Old Trafford, 12:45 GMT, Saturday 08 March 2008

Manchester United’s dream of a second treble was ended by Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth at Old Trafford this afternoon. A Muntari penalty was enough to beat ten man United who lost two goalkeepers during the game.

As expected, Sir Alex Ferguson rotated his squad for this FA Cup Quarter Final and Portsmouth must have been delighted to see they only had a midfield of Scholes and Hargreaves to worry about. Also Tevez was brought back in to partner Wayne Rooney up front.

In a first half basically dominated by United, Portsmouth grew in confidence and looked more and more comfortable. United were a little guilty of the old Arsenal disease of trying to walk the ball into the net.

After five minutes a wide free kick from Ronaldo was met by the head of Scholes, but he could only put the ball well wide.

One minute later Rooney struck a fabulous cross field pass which Ronaldo took brilliantly in his stride and burst into the Pompey area. Distin got back to block him off, but referee Atkinson turned down the penalty appeal. It’s fair to say that anywhere else on the pitch, and maybe any other player, it would have been given as a foul.

On ten minutes United earned a free kick thirty yards out and everyone anticipated a Ronaldo strike. Instead Hargreaves took it and hit it tamely into the wall.

On the quarter hour Kranjcar cut inside for Pompey and struck a firm shot straight at Van Der Sar. The big Dutch keeper fumbled the ball but had no real difficulty. Kranjcar must have thought Scott Carson was in goal!

After eighteen minutes Pompey had a corner which was cleared easily and Tevez and Rooney broke away. They had a two on one but never really looked convincing. However, the ball eventually broke to Tevez whose shot was headed off the line by Glen Johnson.

Twenty minutes in Wayne Rooney was booked for a wild lunge at Kranjcar after he had lost the ball. If he had made contact, the card may well have been red.

Another quick United break from a Pompey corner saw Nani put Ronaldo in on the angle but his shot was easily saved by James.

United were becoming totally dominant and it seemed only a matter of time before they would score.

After twenty-five minutes United won another free kick thirty yards out and this time it was Ronaldo’s turn to strike the wall.

Two minutes later a great ball by Tevez ,who had dropped short, found Scholes in the area who turned and shot but Campbell made a tremendous block.

Just after the half hour Tevez wriggled his way across the Pompey area before firing in a low shot comfortably saved by James.

Thirty-eight minutes in Diarra fouled Ronaldo for the umpteenth time and was booked for persistent fouling.

Despite their dominance it took United until the last minute of the half to earn their first corner. Frustratingly for the Old Trafford faithful Nani didn’t manage to beat the front man.

In injury time they gained a second corner and a better cross was flapped at and missed by James but United were unable to make the most of it.

The teams went in level at half time.

United came out for the second half without Van Der Sar who had suffered a groin strain. Tomasz Kuszczak on.

Pompey won a corner on forty-eight minutes when Kanu put the ball out! Luckily for Martin Atkinson the corner came to nothing.

Two minutes later United had their first attempt of the half when Nani struck a firm shot from twenty yards but it went straight at James.

Next player to try was Rooney who sliced a shot high and wide.

On fifty-seven minutes there was an almighty scramble in the Pompey area after Vidic headed a corner goalwards. Eventually the ball broke to Ronaldo on the edge of the box who slightly scuffed his shot and with James beaten, the ball rolled agonizingly wide.

On the hour Tevez had a shot deflected wide for a corner. Nani took the kick but Pompey cleared easily. United came straight back and Nani crossed to the near post where James gathered comfortably.

Four minutes later a wonderful one-two between Ronaldo and Rooney gave the Portuguese winger a shooting chance which he dragged wide.

Sixty-seven minutes into the game United missed a glorious chance when Evra pulled the ball back behind the on rushing strikers. A cross was eventually delivered but Ronaldo headed weekly over the bar.

Three minutes later Pompey had a remarkable escape when Carrick took the ball past David James but Distin somehow managed to get back to tackle the United substitute on the line.

Another Ronaldo strike on seventy-one minutes went harmlessly wide.

It was all one way traffic and United came even closer on seventy-two minutes when a Evra strike was wonderfully well tipped onto the post by David James.

A minute later a Nani cross was taken off Ronaldo’s toe by Campbell three yards out. It was becoming incredible that United hadn’t scored.

On seventy-five minutes Pompey broke away from a quick clearance by James and Kranjcar played in Baros who was brought down by Kuszczak. Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot and harshly showed the red card to the keeper even though there were at least two covering defenders.

Rio Ferdinand went in goal but was unable to stop Muntari finding the corner of the net and remarkably putting Pompey 1-0 up.

Ten man United continued to push forward but Pompey continued to defend heroically.

In the eighty-fifth minute Ronaldo hit a dipping free kick from fully thirty-five yards but James watched it safely over the bar.

Anderson fired into the side netting from an acute angle to take United’s attempts on goal to eighteen against the two of Portsmouth.

The referee added on four minutes at the end of the game, but United were unable to fashion any further chances and Martin Atkinson’s whistle was the signal for wild celebrations from the Pompey players.

Harry Redknapp will be going to Wembley for the first time in his career as a player or manager.

United – Van Der Sar (Kuszczak 45), Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Scholes, Hargreaves (Carrick 68), Nani, Rooney, Tevez (Anderson 68).

Portsmouth – James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson, Diarra, Bouba-Diop, Muntari, Utaka, Kanu (Baros 53), Kranjcar (Hughes 82),

FA Cup fever hits us again this weekend with it being Quarter Final time. There’s real excitement as the likes of Barnsley, Cardiff, West Brom, Middlesbrough and Bristol Rovers fight for a place in the Wembley semi-finals. Ok, well there’s excitement in Barnsley, Cardiff, West Brom, Middlesbrough, and Bristol anyway!

The four ties are:

Saturday, 08 March 2008
Barnsley v Chelsea, Sixth Round, 17:30
Man Utd v Portsmouth, Sixth Round, 12:45
Sunday, 09 March 2008
Bristol Rovers v West Brom, Sixth Round, 18:00
Middlesbrough v Cardiff, Sixth Round, 14:00

As you can see, the only top quality game is likely to be this one. The others have some of the old romance of the FA Cup, but can anyone really see past Manchester United or Chelsea to win it? In fact, if the Semi-Final draw miraculously keeps them apart (Like it did last year, United against my beloved Watford and Chelsea against Blackburn. What a surprise. I’m not bitter!) can anyone see a final between anyone other than those two?

Chelsea will have too much for Barnsley unless their on loan keeper can produce similar miracles to the ones he produced at Anfield. West Brom won’t fancy the trip to the Rugby pitch at the Memorial Ground, but they should have enough to see off their League One opponents.

I watched Middlesbrough beat Sheffield United the other day and it was one of the most boring games I’ve ever seen. I can’t bear the thought of another game like that in the semi-final. I’ve never fallen asleep during an FA Cup semi-final and I don’t want to start now. Cardiff have not reached this stage of te competition since they won it over seventy years ago. People are asking, “Can history repeat itself?” The answer is no.

So we are left with the Manchester United game against Portsmouth at Old Trafford to produce the quality this famous old competition deserves.

Past meetings

In their last seven visits to Old Trafford Portsmoth haven’t so much as got a sniff of a draw. United have won all seven with an aggregate goal difference of 19 – 3.

Earlier this season United won 2-0 with a nice goal from Ronaldo followed by one of the most amazing free kicks I’ve ever seen, by the same player. With two goals against them a few weeks ago and 30 goals in his last 30 games I would imagine that David James and Harry Redknapp will be hoping for Fergie to use his full rotation policy, and play a youth team player rather than the Portugese winger.

Current Form

Both teams have similar recent records with United winning four and drawing and losing one in their last six. Pompey have won three, drawn one and lost two.

Although United have been impressive recently, they lost their last home league match against Manchester City. They have, of course, beaten Arsenal and Lyon in the FA Cup and Champions League since then.

Portsmouth have an impressive away record having won eleven games on their travels, but they lost 3-1 at Everton last time out.

Players views

Not much coming out of Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney says he thinks he’ll stay at Old Trafford for the rest of his career and Christiano Ronaldo says that all the good performances and goals will count for nothing if United don’t win trophies.

Pompey are talking a good job with Milan Baros speaking about his Wembley dream, Distin saying that they can definitely cause an upset and the cup-tied Jermaine Defoe saying that Portsmouth are even better than he thought they were.

Assistant manager Tony Adams talks at length about the fact that they have faced 429 wide free-kicks this season and only conceded from two of them. Fascinating statistic. I’m sure they’re very proud of that impressive record, but whose job is it to count?

Ed: And that disparity means that they’ll probably concede again from a wide free kick – you know how nature evens up such statistics…


I’m sure Sir Alex will rotate his squad and Portsmouth may have the luxury of him bringing in Tevez, Scholes and Hargreaves from the bench on Tuesday night. They may even be lucky enough to face Saha and Giggs if he is recovered.

Pompey won’t have Jermaine Defoe and without him it is hard to see where they can hurt United.

I’m hoping for an FA Cup classic, but if United score early it could all be over very quickly. Harry Redknapp doesn’t have the best record at Old Trafford and he doesn’t seem to have the answer as to how to stop them at home.

Is it United’s year for the cup? We’ll see on final day at Wembley against Chelsea!

Match report will appear here on Saturday.

Graham writes at Views of a fan.