A second frustrating draw in four days; this 1-1 result against Portsmouth followed a similar script to Sunday’s 0-0 stalemate with Reading, as United dominated possession and created a glut of chances but couldn't make them count.
It’s by no means panic stations, but two draws and four points dropped is not the way United would have liked to begin the title defence. Worst of all, both teams ended the match with ten men, and Cristiano Ronaldo's late red card means he will miss the next three matches against Manchester City, Tottenham and Sunderland.
If recent Premier League campaigns have proved anything it is that a good start is imperative to winning the title. And after Sunday’s draw with Steve Coppell’s men, victory at Fratton Park would hold even greater importance.
However, while United have had few problems picking up victories in each of the last four matches against Pompey at Old Trafford, the team’s record on the south coast made for uncomfortable pre-match reading. On home turf, Portsmouth have beaten United three times in the last four years – a tally Sir Alex Ferguson’s side could ill-afford to add to.
The loss of Wayne Rooney to a fractured metatarsal at the weekend blunted United’s attacking threat, but there was a real sense of anticipation among Reds fans at Fratton Park when, as expected, Carlos Tevez was named in the starting line-up.
And, in the first ten minutes, the Argentine forward buzzed with enthusiasm and energy, eager to impress, although he was largely isolated on his own up front in the opening stages. But, after 15 minutes it was his excellent close control and acute awareness that brought about the opening goal.
Nani, making his first Premier League start, did well on the left flank and his cross found Tevez just inside the penalty area.