The first 3D football match and John Terry axed as England captain, football…bloody hell! Aside from drooling over the magnificent victory at the Emirates Manchester United must now refocus their thoughts as attention turns to the visit of the Premier League’s bottom side Portsmouth.
Avram Grant is probably on his way to another brothel to take his mind off the thought of the impending visit to Old Trafford. As United showed their superiority against Arsenal, a signal that the traditional New Year title push is underway, Portsmouth have on the other hand picked up one point in their last five games, are without a win since late October and have not beaten United in the League since 1957.
United on the other hand go into the match in fine form, one defeat since Christmas and that was the Carling Cup Semi-final 1st Leg, but the last three matches have seen a United raise the level performance greatly.
Therefore expect a number of changes given the visitors’ predicament.
In goal will be Edwin van der Sar, since his return he has only conceded 3 goals in 5 games since his return from compassionate leave. Tomasz Kuszczak will be on the bench after receiving some deserved praise from the United number one, “I thought he really played well in a difficult situation,” added Edwin, whilst talking about the defensive injury crisis.
With Rio Ferdinand serving the second match of a four-match suspension and Nemanja Vidic only rated as doubtful though he should make the bench, Wes Brown and Jonny Evans will continue as the centre-back pairing. Gary Neville should replace Rafael at right-back while the ever present Patrice Evra deserves a breather, so Fabio should step in at left-back given his impressive showing for the reserves last week.
It could be taken as blasphemy is Nani is not on the team sheet given his rousing performance on Sunday, only a few weeks ago his Old Trafford career seemed over, funny how things work out.
Sir Alex was full of praise this week, “In the case of Nani, like Rooney, I think we are seeing a player who is maturing. He’s a young lad who has come in from a different country and he has taken more time than some of the others to settle. But that sometimes happens. Sometimes you bring a player in from another country and they settle straight away, but with Nani you can see his progression over the last few games because he has been outstanding.” Said Ferguson
Nani should be joined by evergreen Ryan Giggs, given a something of a breather against Arsenal; he will be raring to go this weekend. In the middle of the park will be Anderson, given another chance to prove his worth to Sir Alex Ferguson and alongside him will be either Darron Gibson or Michael Carrick. Ji-Sung Park and Antonio Valencia will be looking to make an impact, if needed, from the subs bench.
Newly crowned January player of the month, Wayne Rooney is normally a certain starter, but with fears of burn out and some big matches coming up, he may well get a little time out. Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen will be desperate for some game time, and given the level of opposition they should be awarded an opportunity against Portsmouth.
For the away side, new signings Ricardo Rocha and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie will be pushing for their first starts for Pompey since joining in the transfer window. Nadir Belhadj, Hassan Yebda and Aruna Dindane all returned from the African Cup of Nations and played in the midweek game against Fulham. However Nwankwo Kanu has yet to arrive since being out on duty with Nigeria. Also out are Papa Bouba Diop and Michael Brown.
Looking to avoid defeat, a 4-5-1 formation will likely be employed by Pompey with Aruna Dindane playing as a lone striker. Four owners later and only four wins this season could be an inkling into the number of goals United will put past David James.
Avram Grant was in optimistic mood ahead of the clash, “I have no doubt the players will give everything again against Manchester United. When you see the fact that they keep coming onto the pitch, again and again, giving everything that is good. I always believe – and I do not want to see anyone in my team who does not believe. This is football – anything can happen. I saw Manchester United in their last game against Arsenal, okay they played a bit quick for us but you always have to face up to the challenge in a positive way.”
Pompey have won just one of their last 25 Premier League matches away from home, so do not expect this stat to change much after the game, it will likely read – Pompey have won just one of their last 26 Premier League matches away from home.
Prediction: 4-0 United
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Fabio, Evans, Brown, Neville; Nani, Anderson, Gibson, Giggs; Berbatov, Owen
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