Manchester United 2 Portsmouth 1: Rooney is happy to be back on the chips

No Emperor's stare or up-turned collar completed the magnificent impersonation of Eric Cantona yet Wayne Rooney's response to the execution of an exquisite chip and Portsmouth's FA Cup ambition suggested a similarly talismanic effect on the remainder of Manchester United's season.

First there was an impish grin, then laughter at the audacious lengths he had gone to disprove the theory that United run out of steam after 70 minutes, followed by what appeared a humble apology to his stranded victim in the visiting goalmouth, David James, on the final whistle. Then he laughed once more. Rooney enjoying himself on the grandest stage; how long it has been since that could be said with certainty and how United need his bedevilment for what they hope to achieve this season.

There have been times of late when even a player with the self-belief of Rooney must have questioned the assertion that, one day, Cantona, George Best and Co will have his company in the pantheon of Old Trafford legends, but on the basis of an indelible 30-minute cameo on Saturday evening, those doubts have dissolved in time for the 21-year-old to rejoin his team-mates in their pursuit of the Premiership and a first showpiece at the new Wembley.

Though Sir Alex Ferguson dismissed allegations of discontent and poor form, he did concede Rooney was in dire need of a change in fortune to improve confidence. One week after Rooney's header flew past Jens Lehmann at the Emirates stadium, he has not only scored in successive games for United for the first time since December 2005, but has also revived the aura of a player who thrives on the responsibility to transform a game. Having stepped from the bench to tap in a Ryan Giggs cross and break Pompey's experienced resistance, he made the greatest impression on the fourth round with a remarkable chip from 20 yards that kissed the underside of James' crossbar on its journey home.

"I was looking for the pass at first," revealed Rooney. "But then I decided to chip it instead. But I was as pleased with the first goal as I was with the second because I need to do a bit more of that, scoring easy goals."

Ferguson added: "If he can get into the scoring form which he did last season and get on a run of scoring single goals, he'll make some difference to our team."

Rooney's return also bodes well for the England manager, Steve McClaren, who was present at Old Trafford on Saturday and could not have failed to have been impressed by two Portsmouth men he cast into the international wilderness last summer without the melodrama that accompanied his identical treatment of David Beckham - Sol Campbell and David James.

Campbell and Linvoy Primus dominated until Ferguson ushered his £27m striker from the bench while the Portsmouth goalkeeper was outstanding, denying Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes with eye-catching saves - on current form, he and not Paul Robinson deserves to return between these posts when England play their friendly against Spain next month.

There was early controversy when the referee, Mike Riley, dismissed Portsmouth appeals for a penalty when Gary O'Neil tumbled from a touch by United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak. Then James blocked a header from Nemanja Vidic but only as far as six inches over the line - before Pedro Mendes proved that what goes around really does come around in football by hacking clear from the same spot where Roy Carroll infamously fumbled his shot for Tottenham two seasons ago. Now, as then, no goal was given.

"A lot of arguments in the pub will be ruined if you bring [technology] in," said the Portsmouth coach, Joe Jordan, the only management figure to speak to a mass audience, given that the BBC elected to screen a game featuring two managers who refuse to co-operate with the corporation.

Though Henrik Larsson added to the arguments with a fine volley wrongly disallowed for offside and the visitors had opportunity to cause United serious concern, Andrew Cole guilty of generosity towards his former club before Nwankwo Kanu deflected a Mendes drive in three minutes from time, the tie was destined to complete a day of forgettable FA Cup stories until Rooney arrived and chipped another glorious moment on to his curriculum vitae. By May, with the striker back in the goals, United may reflect on their first trip to the Emirates in a radically different light.

Goals: Rooney (77) 1-0; Rooney (83) 2-0; Kanu (87) 2-1.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Park, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs (Fletcher, 85); Solskjaer (Rooney, 60), Larsson. Substitutes not used: Van der Sar (gk), O'Shea, Silvestre.

Portsmouth (4-4-1-1): James; Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Lauren; O'Neil, Mendes, Hughes (Douala, 81), Taylor; Kranjcar (Mwaruwari, 79); Cole (Kanu, 61). Substitutes not used: Thompson, Ashdown (gk).

Referee: M Riley

Booked: Portsmouth: Hughes.

Man of the match: Rooney.

Attendance: 71,137.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star