So far, not bad, as far as United's title aspirations this season are concerned--but for all their ability to spring into gear in the second half of the season, I can't see United as Champions come May if we fail to beat bottom placed Portsmouth today. For me the league champion is that side that inflicts the most psychological injury to their rivals. So far we've had one chance to do that (against Sunderland) and we've not taken it. When your rivals are clashing a day after you play, there is nothing better than winning your game a day earlier and watch them drop points the following day. Had we beaten Sunderland at home, I feel that Chelsea would have been more nervous going into their game with Liverpool. Instead, they went about their task comfortably and in the end won the match without breaking much sweat. We're now five points behind and for many we can't afford to drop any more before Chelsea do.
This weekend gives us another opportunity to eat into Chelsea's lead and watch them travel to the Emirates under all sorts of pressure to restore their advantage. The logic here is that our failure to beat Pompey will only encourage them to extend their lead even further and an eight point deficit in November is the last thing we need right now.
Now that I've made the essence to win clear, how about we assess the difficulty of the task.
On paper, it should be a straight win for United given that Pompey are mathematically the worst team in the division so far. However, they changed manager in mid-week and that, as we have come to learn does change teams radically--usually for better! It's an old foe this time--Avram Grant aka 'The Frog' will be in the dugout today. We have a little history with him as we were probably responsible for his sacking when we won the European Cup two years ago against Chelsea. The British media will love to think that this is his chance to get revenge and possibly do his old club a favour.
Sir Alex has already pointed out the effect that Grant could have on the players but I feel that we United are above that and so should be able to get the points at Fratton Park even with a spirited performance from Pompey!
The regular absentees are absent but Berba will be fit to start.
Just in case I've not made my point, here it is---this is a must win game for United!