Pathetic Pompey score hat-trick at wrong end

Manchester United 5 Portsmouth 0

Whatever the theme tune to MASH might suggest, suicide is never painless and metaphorically Portsmouth are now locked in a room with a whisky, a revolver and a bundle of final demands.

To go to Old Trafford, a ground where they last won in the League in 1957, would have been a trigger for despair at Fratton Park, but to score three own goals was the actions of a side ready to embrace its fate.

On this evidence, it seems little wonder that Ali al-Faraj, who has just become the third man to relinquish ownership of the club this season, never actually watched them. The sound of drums and bells from the away end was proof that Portsmouth's supporters would not be going quietly from the Premier League but going they are. It is a long walk from Old Trafford to Portsmouth, especially when you have shot yourself so many times in the foot.

When asked to comment on Avram Grant's visit to a "massage parlour" his wife, Tzofit, said he needed a massage because of the stress of being "a great manager of a crappy team". Portsmouth are better than that but sometimes it does not feel like it.

So on the 52nd anniversary of the Munich disaster, Manchester United regained the summit of the Premier League, although this was more a stroll up Primrose Hill rather than an assault on the Eiger's north face. Perhaps significantly, although Chelsea have a game in hand this morning, their advantage in goal difference has now been entirely wiped out.

The fixture list, at Old Trafford at least, has been kind to Manchester United but they have seized their opportunity with a familiar ruthlessness.

Successive home games against Wolves, Wigan, Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth have been won by a collective scoreline of 20-0. Sir Alex Ferguson doubted he would be able to watch Chelsea against Arsenal this afternoon because he was travelling to Glasgow, although in spirit he will be in the away dugout at Stamford Bridge, alongside Arsène Wenger.

Had United not squandered a succession of chances, the margin of defeat might have been greater. Jonny Evans grazed the frame of the goal with a header. Dimitar Berbatov clipped his shot wide from the six-yard line. David James saved brilliantly from Antonio Valencia. There was some early resistance from Portsmouth as Anthony Vanden Borre forced a fine save from Edwin van der Sar and Evans cleared off the line from Nadir Belhadj. But once Wayne Rooney broke through, heading his 23rd of the season, that resistance evaporated.

Perhaps Berbatov's goal, a drive from the edge of the area, summed up the afternoon. When the ball struck the net, the Bulgarian turned and shrugged his shoulders. It was that sort of a game.

The own goals were all different. Nani's dance into the area produced a deflection from Vanden Borre that squirmed beneath James' body. Michael Carrick's drive struck Richard Hughes, looping over James to strike the bottom of his crossbar before nestling in the netting.

If there was some dispute as to whether Carrick should have been credited with it, there was none for the fifth – a cracking volley from Marc Wilson which would have been a beautiful move had it been at the Stretford End. "Football is a game of goals," Grant said, although he might have added that you are normally required to score them in your own net.

Attendance: 74,684

Referee: Lee Mason

Man of the match: Berbatov

Match rating: 7/10

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice