Unfortunately for us, this game has upset written all over it. Pompey are rock bottom of the table and have just appointed a new manager. Not just any manager though. This is the manager who guided Chelsea within one penalty kick of winning the European Cup at our expense.
Avram Grant is back.
After losing the title on the final day of the season, Grant searched for excuses and pointed back to United’s 2-0 victory in September, which didn’t do anything to change my negative opinion of him. The reality was United were just better, however slim that margin was, and were rightly named Champions of England and Europe. Was Grant a mastermind to take the title to the final day and to penalties in the European Cup final? Or was he just a lucky man with a good group of players still working under the mentality of Jose Mourinho? I’d go with the latter. He wasn’t popular with the Chelsea fans and I’d argue for good reason.
Regardless, he’s been chosen to replace Paul Hart as Portsmouth manager, in similar circumstances to how he got the Chelsea job, and of course United would happen to be his first opponents.
I’d argue their position in the league is a tad deceptive, given that they have won two and drawn one of their last six, boasting recent form better than most sides in the bottom half of the table.
But still, in reality, I fancy us for the three points and that has to be our objective. Of course there are always incredible football stories which steal the back pages, but we’ve got to be hoping this afternoon it isn’t going to be about us.
With a less than convincing interview with Red News last weekend, Nemanja Vidic has pledged his commitment to the club, claiming he would be happy to be one of the bases we build the team upon. Wes Brown, who will partner Vidic in the centre of defence, has also been in the news this week, with Sir Alex Ferguson reiterating his belief that Wesley is the best natural defender in the league. That would leave Patrice Evra at left back and right back is up for grabs. Rafael didn’t have a great game on the left against Besiktas, Neville didn’t hae a great game on the right, but one of them is likely to play there with John O’Shea still unavailable. Unless Evans passes a late fitness test which would shift Wes to the right.
I imagine the midfield will line-up as it did against Everton, with Anderson not doing enough against Besiktas to warrant kicking Darren Fletcher or the steadily improving Michael Carrick out of the team.
Dimitar Berbatov is still a doubt meaning we could see Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen start up front again. With the midfielders winning the game for us last weekend, it would be good to see at least one of our strikers get on the scoresheet this weekend. Sadly again, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda didn’t do enough to get in the starting team.
Looking at Pompey, they will be without David James which means Jamie Ashdown will start between the posts. He’s only played two games the season, including last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Stoke, where he didn’t have the greatest of games. Papa Bouba Diop, John Utaka and Steve Finnan are all doubtful too.
This weekend should be a good opportunity for United to make up some ground and create some space between us and the teams below us, with the other teams in the top five playing each other (Villa vs Spurs and Chelsea vs Arsenal). Following good performances against Chelsea and Everton, let’s hope our good league form continues and those around us drop points.
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