Manchester_United_FC_crest.svgMANCHESTER UNITED

vs

WEST HAM UNITED

Old Trafford, Manchester

Saturday, 05 December 2015 1530 hours

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Comparing the inches of space devoted to Manchester United and Chelsea respectively in football blogs and sports periodicals, one could be forgiven for believing that Chelsea were 3rd in the league while United a lowly 14th and not the other way around. A lot of it stems from the outcry from United supporters across the globe asking for their team to play their old firebrand style of football. LvG has made changes to the side and sacrificed speed for possession. While it may not be exciting to watch, one cannot deny that LvGa s methods have worked to a certain extent. The defense doesna t seem leaky and shaky anymore (thanks in large part to David de Gea and Chris Smalling). Old Trafford looks like a fortress again with United having conceded only one Premier League goal at home. And it is to this fortress that the Hammers travel come Saturday.

Team News, Tactics and Predicted Lineups

Manchester United

United will go into the game on Saturday looking to get back to winning ways after a top of the table clash at Kings Park Stadium where they drew 1-1 with high flying Leicester City. United are still carrying a bunch of long term injuries though fans would have been pleased to see young Paddy McNair play the full 90 minutes last weekend after having returned from his injury while on duty for Northern Ireland. Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw remain long term absentees while Phil Jones, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard, Marcos Rojo and Wayne Rooney all face fitness tests after being unable to complete full midweek training.

While LvG opted for a 3 man defensive backline in the previous game, it is likely he will return to a more conventional back four this weekend for the West Ham game. Carrick and Schweinsteiger were in charge of the midfield to control matters as United were playing with a narrower formation against Leicester. Against West Ham, they can bring in Schneiderlin for Carrick to provide some cover for defense while Schweinsteiger can play higher up the pitch to overload attack.

Expect Mata to combine with Young and Lingard on either side to form the attacking trio with Martial at its head. Martiala s skills are pretty much wasted on the flanks and he needs to play down the center where he can run at defenders and create space for his teammates and problems for the opponents.

Uniteda s play has been predictable this season and teams have been able to read and stop them from scoring. LvG has ensured United are difficult to score again and that is half the job done. Now he needs to ensure that they can score goals as well. At the moment that is not happening and it is not completely up to the inability of the strikers to finish shots. Supply is thin and for a large portion of the possession, United players are engaged in laborious back passes and sideways passes. United will need to inject some pace and penetration into their attack if they want to win matches and stay within striking distance of cross town rivals City and surprise high flyers Leicester.

Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Blind, McNair, Smalling, Darmian; Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger; Young, Mata, Lingard, Martial

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West Ham

The Hammers travel to Old Trafford chasing an unprecedented record. If they manage to beat their illustrious rivals on Saturday, they will become the first PL team to defeat Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United away from home. In fact Bilica s side has had a terrific run of form away from home that they would be hoping to capitalize on when they visit Old Trafford. Currently West Ham sit 6 points adrift of Manchester United in the Premier League table, no wins in the last four games having dented their strong start to this season.

Bilic will have some headaches ahead of team selection on Saturday though. Key striker Diafra Sakho has been ruled out for eight weeks with a thigh injury and joins fellow front-man Enner Valencia and midfield playmaker Dimitri Payet on the sidelines. Slaven Bilic will however be glad to welcome back captain Mark Noble to the starting lineup after he served his one match suspension against West Brom.

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About his Saturday rivals, Bilic said that “They’re not conceding goals and somebody said they are boring, but they are not a team that is giving you the ball and defending. Especially at home, when the opponents are defending with numbers and are compact, you can’t play very vertically. You need gaps and space behind or in between the lines of the opponent. That’s hard to find.a This may very well be the key to West Hama s chances on Saturday. With depletion in attacking players owing to injury, Bilic may have to hand Andy Caroll a start but it is very possible that he will set up his side to avoid a draw instead of going for the spectacular. If that were to happen, West Ham would need to ensure that they play a compact formation and keep the distance between defense and midfield especially in check. Anthony Martial provides an ever present threat with his speed and ability to turn and run off the shoulder of the last defender so it is essential for the defence to hold a high line when the team are attacking upfield. Given Uniteda s experienced attackers like Schweinsteiger, Mata and Rooney, defensive duties would also have to be shared by all outfield players. Leicester demonstrated this with all players playing behind the midline when United attacked.

The game promises to be a tough one and both teams would have to put up a stupendous work rate if either is to get past the other.

Predicted Lineup (4-1-4-1): Adrian; Cresswell, Reid, Ogbonna, Jenkinson; Kouyate; Moses, Noble, Lanzini, Zarate; Carroll

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Key Facts

  • United have the best defensive record in the Premier League currently having shipped only 10 goals so far this season. Of that only 1 has been scored at Old Trafford.
  • If West Ham can defeat Manchester United, they will be the first team in Premier League history to defeat Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United away from home.
  • Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 13 Premier League meetings with West Ham United, winning 11 and drawing two.
  • West Ham have lost seven successive league fixtures at Old Trafford and have won twice there in the Premier League era (W2 D0 L17).

Match Prediction

Manchester United 2 West Ham 0

Manchester United are currently sitting in 3rd position in the Premier League table but after playing out a goalless draw against PSV Eindhoven and a 1-1 draw against Leicester, Louis van Gaala s team needs a win and what better place to do it than at home against an opposition theya ve won against 7 times on the trot at home. United have the necessary firepower to overwhelm the Hammers but it will be a different proposition to put it to use as their attacking play has been profoundly lacking this term.