Manchester United's Louis Saha (right) celebrates his goal against Portsmouth with Wayne Rooney during their English Premier League match in Manchester yesterday. United won 3-0.-Reuters
MANCHESTER UNITED celebrated 20 years under Alex Ferguson's command with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Portsmouth to stay top of the Premier League yesterday.
The points were effectively in the bag after 10 minutes at Old Trafford thanks to a Louis Saha penalty and a dazzling free kick from Cristiano Ronaldo. Nemanja Vidic headed the third midway through the second half.
With champions Chelsea not in action until today, United forged three points clear with 28 from 11 games. Chelsea have 25 while third-placed Bolton Wanderers (20) lost ground after a 1-0 defeat at home to Wigan Athletic.
At the other end of the table, draw specialists Watford notched their first win of the season, moving out of the bottom three with a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough, while Charlton Athletic climbed off the bottom by beating Manchester City 1-0.
Everton missed a chance to rise into the top four when they went down 1-0 against Fulham at Craven Cottage where they have not scored a league goal since 1967.
Improving Liverpool joined them on 17 points thanks to a Dirk Kuyt double in a comfortable 2-0 home win against Reading.
Manchester United seemed determined to make up for the blip of a 1-0 Champions League defeat by FC Copenhagen in midweek, tearing into fourth-placed Portsmouth from the first whistle.
It took less than two minutes for Saha to beat David James from the penalty spot after Wayne Rooney's burst into the penalty area was curtailed by Dejan Stefanovic.
Saha was causing mayhem in the Pompey defence and when he was fouled after 10 minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to send a superb free kick past James.
The Portsmouth keeper stood firm against a rampant United, denying Gary Neville on two occasions before half-time and once more after the break.
Saha also found James in inspired form but the former England stopper was finally beaten again when Vidic headed in powerfully from Neville's cross.
Portsmouth, the surprise package of the first quarter of the season, rarely threatened, although Croatia international Niko Kranjcar did slice wastefully wide when the score was 2-0.
"In the main I'm very pleased, very good forward play and we could have scored a few goals," Ferguson said.
Liverpool climbs to seventh
Liverpool climbed to seventh and took their goal tally to 12 in four games as Dutchman Kuyt scored in each half.
He put the Reds ahead after 14 minutes when a Peter Crouch header fell into his path and then wrapped up the points with 20 minutes remaining after Reading keeper Marcus Hahnemann failed to hold another Crouch header.
Watford, who had drawn six of their opening 10 games after promotion back to the top flight, were full value for their first three-point haul of the season.
Hameur Bouazza's shot deflected in off Boro defender Jonathan Woodgate after five minutes to give them a dream start and England Under-21 striker Ashley Young seized on a poor defensive header to clinch the win after the break.
"We had an opportunity last week (against Tottenham Hotspur) but sooner or later if you keep banging at the door, the door will open," manager Aidy Boothroyd said.
Watford jumped to 16th position, two above the drop zone, with nine points.
Bottom club Charlton won their first league game since August with Darren Bent's first-half header enough to beat Manchester City at the Valley.
Arsenal can move up to third today if they beat West Ham United in the London derby at Upton Park.