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.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
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

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test