WEST HAM UNITED
Old Trafford, Manchester
Wednesday, November 28, 20:00 GMT
Manchester United welcomes the Hammers to the Theatre of Dreams with the aim of stretching their lead at the top of the table. A largely insipid display at the weekend against rock bottom QPR must have bothered Sir Alex but the ability of the side to carve out a positive result despite a dodgy display must give some heart. West Ham, on the other hand, will look to bounce back after the reversal at the White Hart Lane, although Sam Allardyce men might be in for another hiding.
Sir Alex’s starting lineup once again raised more than a few eyebrows and the Scholes-Fletcher combo proved ineffective to put it mildly. Energy from the bench changed the course of the tide and United reclaimed the summit as Chelsea and City played out a stalemate. Now, all eyes will yet again be on Fergie’s team selections and with another game on the weekend, be rest assured there will be a few surprises in store. Also, bothering Ferguson would be United’s defensive fragilities as the Red Devils have failed to keep a clean sheet in ten consecutive games in a row, a first in eight seasons.
The Hammers have enjoyed their new innings in the first division thus far and easily surpassed preseason expectations. Critics might not be pleased with Big Sam’s approach to the game but he must be commended for bringing the best out of his troops. The final objective for Hammers is undoubtedly to avoid the drop this season and then build from there on. For Sam Allardyce and his men, Old Trafford might be a step too far; nevertheless, Andy Carroll finally scored last weekend, ergo one can indeed expect the unexpected.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Paul Scholes is suspended for the game after picking his fifth booking of the season against QPR on Saturday. Nani continues to be on the treatment table due to his hamstring injury while Antonio Valencia faces a late fitness test regarding a hip problem that kept him out of the QPR game. Others missing are Shinji Kagawa and Nemanja Vidic, who are both expected to return near the festive period.
The manager is likely to go with a 4-4-2 formation, but with Nani and Valencia missing, he might opt for Wayne Rooney on the wings along with Ashley Young with RvP and Chicharito playing on top. Anderson, after his game winning performance as a substitute against West Ham, has already been tipped to start the match by Sir Alex while Michael Carrick, who was rested on the weekend, is also likely to return to the starting line-up.
In defence, Rio Ferdinand might be given a rest as Ferguson is always reluctant to give the ageing defender two games in four days. Also, Rafael might be given a break with Jones being brought back to the starting line-up at right back. While Fergie will be eager to give the Brazilian a break, but he will also be keen to play Jones due to his areal superiority over Rafael which will aid the team in negotiating the areal threat posed by Allardyce’s men.
The manager will be hoping for a better performance from his team than what was on display against QPR. Anderson’s inclusion in the team will give a much-needed impetus which was clearly lacking on Saturday as the Brazilian likes to run at the opposition on every opportunity thus forcing them on the back foot. Chicharito will be stretching the West Ham defence allowing more space for the likes of Rooney and Van Persie to drop in and create problems. The full-backs will be pushing on as much as possible, keeping the West Ham players pinned back in their own half.
Sir Alex also has the option to make a tactical change if needed and change the midfield to play a diamond formation by bringing on Tom Cleverley. Carrick will become the outright defensive midfielder, Anderson and Cleverley marshaling the midfield while Rooney playing on the tip of the diamond.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): De Gea; Jones, Evans, Smalling, Evra; Young, Carrick, Anderson, Rooney; van Persie, Chicharito
West Ham United
Sam Allardyce also has a couple of key players missing from his squad. While Yossi Benayoun is not too far away from his return from a knee injury, Ricardo Vaz Te will be missing for a while as he is not expected to return before Christmas. Others out injured are Jack Collison and Alou Diarra, however, neither of them was expected to be involved in this game.
Matt Jarvis is expected to return to the starting line-up after returning as a sub at White Hart Lane. Rest of the line-up is expected to be the same as it has been in the last two games with Diame and Noble playing as the two defensive midfielders while Nolan playing behind Andy Carroll who, as usual, will be leading the line.
There is no secret about Allardyce’s method of playing and there is no reason he will change that at Old Trafford, especially since the Red Devils have been troubled by the areal ball all season long. Long balls will be played into Carroll with Nolan making the runs behind to gather the flick-ons. Matthew Jarvis, who has been quite successful against United with Wolves, will be taking on United’s right back on every opportunity and delivering dangerous crosses into the penalty area for Carroll to pounce upon.
Noble and Diame are expected to sit deep to negate the threat of Anderson and also the striker (Rooney or RvP) who will be dropping deep for the home side. The full-backs are not likely to go too much forward but the main threat of attack for the visitors will be from set pieces as Big Sam’s men are so proficient on taking advantage of the dead ball situations.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Jaaskelainen; O’ Brien, Tomkins, Reid, McCartney; Noble, Diame; O’ Neil, Nolan, Jarvis; Carroll
- Manchester United have won the last league meetings against West Ham having lost three consecutive before that.
- Wayne Rooney has scored seven goals in his last four games against the Hammers.
- The Red Devils have scored ten headed goals so far this season – most by any team in the league so far.
- Manchester United have equaled their Premier League record of winning six matches after going behind. However, the overall record is ten matches by Newcastle United in 2001-02.
Player To Watch Out For
Anderson (Manchester United)
The Brazilian was voted the player of the match by United fans even though he came on as a substitute for the last half an hour. However, the there cannot be any debate regarding their choice as the former Porto man changed the game on its head after coming on. The team that looked lackluster to say the least, suddenly had a spark in them ignited by the brilliant Anderson. His performance has also been awarded by a first team place as declared by the manager in his pre-match conference and it is now upto the diminutive midfielder to make the midfield position his own in the coming few weeks and that process should start against West Ham on Wednesday night.
Manchester United 3-1 West Ham United
It will be a contest of contrasting styles as is so often the case when Manchester United meet any Sam Allardyce team. While the visitors will be looking to play the ball in the air as much as possible, the home side will be keen to keep their passing game going. While United’s defence will fail to keep a clean sheet against the physical Hammers, their attack will prove to be too much to propel them to another home win.