Unhappy return to Premiership for Avram Grant


Defending champions Manchester United made it an unhappy Premier League return for Avram Grant on Saturday as they beat Portsmouth 4-1 at Fratton Park.

In a match of three penalties, the reds ran out comfortable winners in Grant's first match back since, as manager he lost the Champions League finals in a spot-kick shootout in 2008.

That was not the only similarity to that dramatic night in Moscow as the Israeli stood in his technical area and got a good soaking for his efforts as the match was played in torrential rain.

Grant received a round of applause before the match and for spells, his new team outplayed the champions. Taking charge of Portsmouth in his guise as Director of Football, Grant, who was named manager on Thursday following the departure of Paul Hart, had just one day to train his new squad.

In a top versus bottom contest, World Cup-bound England striker Wayne Rooney put United ahead ahead from the spot after he was brought down by Michael Brown only for Kevin-Prince Boateng's penalty to haul Pompey level.

I'm not a man who looks back at the past. All challenges in football are different. It is the nature of the game. Avram Grant

Ryan Giggs crossed for Rooney to slot in and the Welsh winger was then fouled to allow the England striker to grab his third with a second penalty.

Giggs added a late free-kick as United kept the pressure on leaders Chelsea.

The win moved United to within two points of Premier League table-toppers Chelsea, who play Arsenal on Sunday.

After the game, Grant said: "If I came from the moon and heard the result I would have thought Man Utd played great and Portsmouth was not so good but we played very well.

"I thought we played better. We created chances and conceded soft goals.

"Our goalkeeper almost didn't touch the ball and (United keeper) Tomasz Kuszczak made three great saves.

"Sometimes when you lose you are very disappointed, but if you watch the game you will see we had many chances to score goals and then we conceded soft goals and you don't know what to say.

"I am not happy now, but there are so many positives you can take. We played good football, the spirit was good. We are at the bottom so we need points. It will not be easy but if we continue to create chances we can stay up."

Before the game against a United team for whom manager Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to watch from the stands as he was serving a suspension for insulting referee Mike Riley, Grant said about his return to Portsmouth: "The spirit of the team and atmosphere are good. The squad is good enough to take us from the bottom, but we need some players who can improve us.

"I'm not a man who looks back at the past. All challenges in football are different. It is the nature of the game.

"This is a difficult one, although not impossible, but when I was manager of Chelsea it was difficult as well.

"I came to help Portsmouth in 2006 and I'm happy to do it also now.

"The team has not been playing badly either and we are not that far below many others in the Premier League, but in our position it is points you need and I will make that my priority even though I won't play ugly football.

"I will try to gather points by playing well. I need to do a good job because the team are not in a good position. I love this club."

"There have been good results in the last month compared to before, but what's happened has happened and I'm looking forward to the next game.

"We deserve to stay in the Premier League and that's my main aim."

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