No old pals act

Avram Grant is planning to ruin old pal Sir Alex Ferguson's Bank Holiday weekend by scoring an unlikely victory at Manchester United.

Grant's West Ham United are 20/1 outsiders to leave Old Trafford with three points on Saturday, but the Hammers boss is hoping his insider knowledge gained from a 20-year friendship with Ferguson will give his team a chance to upset the odds.

The Israeli first met the Red Devils manager two decades ago during his fledgling years as a coach at Hapoel Petah Tikva - regularly visiting United's Cliff training ground to learn new techniques.

The pair have remained close and speak regularly, including one telephone conversation in the lead-up to Saturday's Barclays Premier League fixture, but their relationship will be cast to one side when their teams clash at the Theatre of Dreams.

"We spoke last week, but I will let you know later what about!" said Grant. "I have known Alex for many, many years. I came to visit him and we have a very good relationship - I like him a lot.

"He gave me two good pieces of advice in my last two years, but I'll keep them to myself. I also bought him some wine and he said it was very good, so I hope this time he has bought me some wine.

"I met him about 20 years ago. I was here five or six times learning about English football and watching training and I met him when I asked to watch his training. He had started with the young players and I was very excited because this is what we were trying to do in my own country. This was the first meeting and I was there many, many times."

Avram Grant

Grant will be without Germany midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, who has a thigh injury, while Nigeria forward Victor Obinna will not be available after completing a season-long loan move from Italian club Internazionale. Obinna could make his debut against Chelsea on 11 September, lining up alongside new team-mates like Robert Green and Pablo Barrera - who like him appeared at the FIFA World Cup.

Before then, the manager is thinking only of the chance to score a first-ever victory at Old Trafford.

"I've never won there - It's about time!"

Grant did taste victory over United with Chelsea in April 2008, only to suffer the heartache of a penalty shoot-out defeat by the same opposition in the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow a month later.

However, while those memories are still fresh in the manager's mind, he is eager to look to the future and see his team gain their first points of the season.

"My father always told me 'Don't live in the past'. I like to have memories of the past and every day I remember things from the past in football and other things, but I'm not looking in the past. We have a game against United and will try to do our best.

"What's happened in the past is part of history. You can look at it as very difficult against Man United but I can also remember good memories. We beat Man United and finished on the same points as them as champions. I hope this will be one of the good memories."

To win, Grant knows his players must adopt a positive attitude and not go to Old Trafford believing the game is over before it has even kicked-off. Having reached the FA Cup final despite great adversity with Portsmouth last season, the West Ham manager is used to causing upsets.

"I always tell my players to be positive. When you want to get a big result, you cannot have a negative attitude. Manchester United is a better team than West Ham, but the better team doesn't always win. We need to do a few things to make their lives not easy. Always, people like football because sometimes the result they didn't think about happens.

"We need to go with this attitude because we know how to play football and I believe it will not be easy for Manchester United. How can you go into football with a negative attitude.

"To be concerned is OK. You need to be concerned about everything. We played in the Carling Cup against a team [Oxford United] not in our division and it was not easy for us. I don't think you think you will win a game easily, because it will not happen. You need to have a positive attitude as this is the key for everything.

"This is a big challenge for my players. The players need to look at this like I look at it. It is a big challenge. We did it last year [at Portsmouth] and even in Chelsea we weren't expected to make the Champions League final. If you take any situation not as a challenge, you can't succeed - not in sport and not in life."