Fratton Park hasn’t been United’s favourite ground at the best of times, and even a visit now they are the Barclays Premier League’s bottom-placed club is fraught with danger after Portsmouth this week changed their manager.
Paul Hart was dismissed and replaced with former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, and Sir Alex Ferguson has briefed his players on managing the inevitable response that follows a change at the top.
Portsmouth will not only be buoyed by a fresh approach under Grant, they’ll take heart from the fact they have claimed ten points from six meetings with United on the south coast since their arrival in the top flight in 2003/04.
“It’s not easy to go to Portsmouth,” Sir Alex said on Friday. “Obviously they have a new manager, so you would imagine there will be a response, as you always get from a team with a new manager.
"We also recognise the atmosphere at Fratton Park, it is a great football ground. You need to deal with that, so it should be a very hard game for us.”
Grant is a good friend of Sir Alex’s and the two have kept in touch since the Israel-born boss left his last post at Stamford Bridge.
His last game in charge was, of course, United's Champions League triumph in Moscow on penalty kicks in May 2008. But Chelsea ran the Reds close both in Europe and domestically that year, so Sir Alex has a great deal of respect for his opposite number.
“We know Avram very well from his time at Chelsea,” he added. “He's very experienced and I’m sure he will get the right reaction from his players. We’ve kept in touch quite a lot, and he will be glad to get back into management. But he has got a challenge because when your team is bottom of the league you've got a real task on your hands. But hopefully he can manage that.”
Sir Alex certainly won’t be underestimating Portsmouth, nor will he be lulled into a false sense of security by Pompey’s precarious league position and financial plight.
“They have some very good players,” he says. “I’ve watched videos of their games and they might be in a false position. But being bottom of the league often causes a reaction from