A Wayne Rooney hat-trick, allied to Ryan Giggs' 100th Premier League goal, saw United edge a pulsating encounter with Portsmouth on a rain-sodden afternoon at Fratton Park.
Having taken the lead through Rooney's early penalty, the Reds had to overcome the concession of a baffling spot-kick for the home side, which Kevin-Prince Boateng converted. However, Rooney struck twice after the break, once in open play, once from the spot again, before Giggs struck a late free-kick to cap a superb personal display.
United were off-key for much of the first 45 minutes, with Pompey deservedly level despite the controversial nature of their goal, but after the interval the Reds ran amok, comfortably strolling to all three points in the teeming rain as Sir Alex Ferguson watched on from the shelter of the Fratton Park stands.
The United manager, serving out the first instalment of a two-game touchline ban, would have been delighted by the clinical second half display from his side which put paid to the hopes of a home side straining every sinew to impress new manager Avram Grant.
Pre-match, Sir Alex had warned that he would again be patching up his defence, with Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, John O'Shea and Fabio all out injured. The absence of Edwin van der Sar, forced by a knee injury, also meant a rare start for Tomasz Kuszczak in goal, with Ben Foster occupying the substitute goalkeeper's role.
The game's first two chances came within seconds of one another. First Giggs slipped a low corner to the lurking Paul Scholes, whose 20-yard half-volley cleared the bar by just a yard, before Aruna Dindane escaped the United defence, only to be thwarted by a terrific close-range save from Kuszczak.
Buoyed by their side's first telling contribution to events, the infamously raucous home