London:Manchester United beat Portsmouth 1-0 unconvicingly on Monday for its first Premier League victory of the season.
Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher scored for the second straight game to lift United to four points from two matches, two fewer than leader Chelsea.
While Arsenal's weekend defeat took some of the pressure off United following its opening 1-1 draw with Newcastle, the defending champions went into the match needing a victory to not fall at least four points behind title contenders Chelsea and Liverpool.
But United overcame a sometimes shaky performance and the continued absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, using Fletcher's 33rd-minute goal to climb level on points with Liverpool, Blackburn, Hull and Newcastle.
Midfielder Papa Bouba Diop almost put Portsmouth ahead within 15 seconds with a 25-meter shot just wide of goal. The home side then appealed for a penalty shortly after when a cross by Sean Davis appeared to touch defender Nemanja Vidic's hand.
Although United drew saves from goalkeeper David James with shots from Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes, Portsmouth had two chances in quick succession through striker Peter Crouch and defender Younes Kaboul.
But Fletcher followed his equalizing goal in last week's disappointing draw with Newcastle by forcing the ball over the line from close range after a left-wing cross from Patrice Evra.
Anderson almost made it 2-0 early in the second half following a move engineered by Carlos Tevez and Rooney, and United almost paid for its miss when Pompey substitute Jerome Thomas hit a fierce shot that goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar only just managed to punch away.
With Portsmouth going for an equalizer, United tried to make use of the space left and Paul Scholes and Vidic both had late chances to score.
United climbed within two points of Chelsea, and is behind Liverpool, Blackburn and newly promoted Hull on goal difference.
Portsmouth, which has been tipped by many observers to do well this season after winning the 2008 FA Cup, is now bottom of the standings without a single point.