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Tue 26 Aug 2008 02:15 AM

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Fletcher seals win for Man Utd against Portsmouth

Speculation on United's hunt for striker before transer market closes Sept. 1.

Darren Fletcher was the unlikely goal hero for the second match in a row as Manchester United got their Premier League title defence up and running with a 1-0 victory at Portsmouth on Monday.

But the sooner Dimitar Berbatov becomes an Old Trafford player the better for Sir Alex Ferguson.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens with that," was all Sir Alex would say on the subject afterwards as he spoke to Sky Sports, neatly batting away the question of new potential recruits before the transfer window closes on Sept. 1.

Fletcher handed United their first win of the season with a fortuitous 32nd-minute strike, which may yet be credited as a Sylvain Distin own goal, as the champions produced another toothless attacking display.

Ferguson nonetheless was able to look on the bright side.

"We played some excellent football. It's a difficult place to come. Last year we drew here, the year before we lost, so it's a bonus," said the United boss.

"We tried to get a system where the players were comfortable in their positions. We used the players in the right way."

United welcomed back Carlos Tevez after the Argentine missed their 1-1 opening day draw with Newcastle due to a family bereavement.

Injured star midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo remained on the sidelines.

Portsmouth, who paraded the FA Cup in front of the Fratton Park fans before kick off, handed an immediate debut to French left back Armand Traore following his loan move from Arsenal.

Senegal midfielder Papa Bouba Diop came close to giving Harry Redknapp's side a dream start when he shot inches wide of Edwin Van der Saar's right hand post with only ten seconds on the clock.

Paul Scholes forced David James into his first meaningful save in the 19th minute with a swerving 30-yard piledriver, which saw the veteran goalkeeper dive full length to his left to keep out.

Peter Crouch should have put Portsmouth in front six minutes later after being presented with a golden chance by some comical United defending.

Scholes inexplicably smashed a 40-yard back pass straight into touch and a quick throw-in set Jermaine Defoe away down the left.

Defoe's cross bounced off Patrice Evra to the feet of Nemanja Vidic, who slipped in front of Crouch, but the former Liverpool striker shot straight into the chest of United goalkeeper Edwin van Der Saar.

United were given another let off from the resulting corner when Younes Kaboul was left totally unmarked only to head wide from Sean Davis's centre.

The European Cup holders finally showed their class by taking the lead 13 minutes before half time, albeit with a huge helping hand from Portsmouth defenders Sol Campbell and Distin.

Patrice Evra was played through by Tevez on the left wing and whipped in a teasing low cross, which Campbell played against Fletcher's knee and a desperate Distin could only lash the ball into the roof of his own net from the goalline.

Rooney was furious with himself for not extending the lead in the 41st minute. Scholes and Anderson linked up brilliantly down the right before the Brazilian pulled the ball back for Rooney, who dragged his shot wide from 16 yards with only James to beat.

United hope to finally bring their summer long pursuit of Tottenham striker Berbatov to a successful conclusion this week and could have done with some of the Bulgarian's guile and craft as they badly lacked any cutting edge in the second half.

Fletcher, who also netted against Newcastle last weekend, came closest to adding to the scoreline in the 70th minute when his fierce right foot volley was charged down by Glen Johnson after the impressive Anderson had danced his way through the home defence.

Portsmouth had beaten United in three of the pair's five Premier League meetings at Fratton Park but never looked likely to extend that proud record as their expensively-assembled front two of Crouch and Defoe were stifled by Rio Ferdinand and Vidic.

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