Manchester United 0 Portsmouth 0 (MU win 3-1 on pens): United lack cutting edge without fleet feet of Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has proved himself in recent months something of a stranger to self-doubt or, at the very least, someone who seems to believe that the earth orbits according to his own requirements. And yesterday, as he watched from a Wembley executive box, he will have felt no more reason to doubt the value of the man whose face he gazes at in the bathroom mirror every morning.

It came down, quite simply, to goals. On their way to their 13th Community Shield victory, Manchester United were slick in their passing, lively in their movement and dominant in every department over Portsmouth. Not only that, they won 10 corners to their opponents' one, they clipped the bar and they demanded the very best of David James. Their problem was that they failed to express their advantage in goals, which is the commodity in which Ronaldo deals most effectively.

Take the man with 42 goals last season out the team – and remove Wayne Rooney, too – and this is still United, but not as we remember the European champions. Yes, it might only have been the Community Shield game but in many respects it told us a great deal about United.

First of all it was an insight into why Sir Alex Ferguson got on a plane to Lisbon this summer to persuade Ronaldo to stay. Quite frankly, what else could he do? Give up the Premier League's most devastating goal machine and ask Darren Fletcher to chip in with 40-plus goals this season? With respect to the Scottish midfielder it was not just him who passed up his moment in front of goal. Carlos Tevez, excellent though he was, could not find a way past James. Nani looked 10 yards quicker than last season and despite making Sol Campbell appear to travel backwards in his occasional pursuits, the Portuguese international did not prove decisive.

United are still beautiful to watch without Ronaldo, they are still pacey, strong and direct, but they lack that certainty in front of goal that breaks the hearts of opponents. Which is why they were still on the pitch gone 5pm finishing off a Pompey team who cocked-up the penalty shoot-out even more spectacularly than Chelsea in the Champions League final in May.

When Glen Johnson missed the decisive penalty Tevez, who had done the most to breathe life into a United team without Ronaldo and Rooney, led the charge towards Edwin van der Sar. Halfway to the goalkeeper he remembered this was only the Community Shield, jogged to a halt and walked back to his team-mates.

It was that kind of day, the occasion of Ferguson's 30th trophy as United manager something of a non-event. When the Scot talked afterwards about signing a new striker – Dimitar Berbatov in all likelihood – then you could see that he had seen the same things that everyone else had. In Nani, Tevez and Paul Scholes, United are still ready to rip sides apart but they lack the cutting edge with Ronaldo out until October at least and possibly gone for good come next season.

Good job United persuaded Argentina not to take Tevez to the Olympics. He was denied a penalty by the referee Peter Walton in the 75th minute when Herman Hreidarsson appeared to grab the striker's leg as he fell in the penalty area. The reaction was Tevez grabbing his opponent by the throat and shoving him away, a moment of madness that Hreidarsson – to his credit – chose not to exploit. Five minutes earlier James had tipped Tevez's best effort wide.

The "Respect" campaign launched with such fanfare by the Football Association before the game was not in evidence then, nor in the three bookings for Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville and Sylvain Distin, although Neville, back properly for the first time in 17 months, at least did seem to grasp the importance of not lambasting the referee on this day above all. Other than that it was the save James made in the 49th minute, brushing Fletcher's shot onto the bar, that stuck in the memory.

The anticipated partnership of Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe is still, it seems, very much in the early stages. Neither will feel that they got the service they will need to score goals in the Premier League and, with Pompey's money apparently dried up, this team still looks half-built. Lassana Diarra was excellent until the penalty shoot-out but there is no width in Harry Redknapp's side which will be crucial now they have elected to switch from last season's 4-5-1 to a new 4-4-2 formation.

Portsmouth's performance in the penalty shoot-out was woeful. Diarra and Johnson, their first and fourth penalty-takers, failed to hit the target at all. Arnold Mvuemba had his saved by Van der Sar and only Defoe scored. In contrast, Tevez, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick all scored.

At the end of the game, Ferguson put his arms around the shoulders of his unused Brazilian substitutes Rafael Da Silva and Rodrigo Possebon and seemed to be telling them to enjoy the experience of their first trophy. These teenagers' careers at United may even outlast Ferguson's at the club but what he needs in the short term is a goalscorer.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Neville (Brown, 67), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, O'Shea (Carrick, 67), Scholes, Nani (Campbell, 79); Giggs, Tevez. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Evans, Da Silva, Possebon.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson (Lauren, 80); Diop, Diarra, Mendes (Mvuemba, 75), Kranjcar (Utaka, 60); Defoe, Crouch. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Sahar, Cranie, Traoré.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Manchester United Vidic, Neville; Portsmouth Distin.

Man of the match: Tevez.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum