Match Preview: Portsmouth Vs Manchester United – and the return of Fat Tony!
Last time Sir Alex Ferguson and the Simpson’s Fat Tony look-alike Avram Grant locked managerial horns the occasion was a little greater than it is this Saturday. Back in 2008 Grant was manager of Chelsea who faced United in the Champions League final, which United of course won on penalties. The tables have turned on the Israeli boss though and he now takes the reigns as his Portsmouth side and face United at Fratton Park in his first game in charge – a baptism of fire to say the least!
So what can we expect from Portsmouth? From their season so far I’d suggest not a lot but you never know how a new manager will fare when he takes charge. Despite his physical similarities to cartoon gang lord Fat Tony, Grant is a decent manager – his spell at Chelsea proved that and he was perhaps unlucky to lose his job. In terms of injuries the most notable absentee is goalkeeper David James, the England international is struggling with a calf-strain and may miss out on United’s visit. Jamie Ashdown deputised in James’ absence against Stoke last week and didn’t impress in all honesty, though they also have former Fulham man Antti Niemi in their ranks and he may be preferred by Grant – who in all likelihood will make some changes.
Other players Grant will have to make do without include African pair Papa Bouba Diop and John Utaka. Bouba Diop is a big loss for Pompey and his power in midfield will certainly be missed when United line up on Saturday, while Utaka is probably one of their better players going forward. Defensive pair Steve Finnan and Linvoy Primus have both also been ruled out.
In terms of their danger men former United youngster Danny Webber is amongst their ranks, though whether he’ll play or not remains to be seen. I quite like the look of Algerian midfielder Hassan Yebda, who looks like he has some skills in his locker. Former Spurs man Kevin-Prince Boateng has also been one of their better players, which isn’t saying much to be quite honest, though whether he’ll be able to do anything against United remains to be seen.
After a disappointing Champions League loss at home to Besiktas on Wednesday I’m sure Ferguson will have his players fired up for this one. In fairness it was a very ‘experimental’ United side to say the least and considering Wolfsburg lost earlier that day it didn’t really change much in terms of finishing top of the group. Expect a full-strength United side capable of putting quite a few past Grant’s Pompey.
There are a few United players who will have to sit this one out. Fabio has a groin strain and should miss out on the trip to the south coast, though he may be back in time for the Carling Cup tie with Spurs on Tuesday night. John O’Shea is still suffering with a thigh problem with no date yet pencilled in for a possible return. Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves are both ruled out with calf and knee injuries respectively but Johnny Evans (calf) and Dimitar Berbatov (knee) may return on Saturday.
Despite the arrival of Grant as the new manager at Portsmouth I severely doubt they’ll get any joy out of United. Historically Fratton Park is a tricky ground to travel to but Pompey’s form has been so bad I just can’t see him turning it around in one game, especially with United as the visitors. Considering practically the entire first-team was rested for the midweek Champions League fixture Fergie’s men should go into this fresh and confident of victory.
Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting horse racing Ireland and Fairyhouse tips for Betfair.