WEST HAM UNITED
Boleyn Ground, London
February 8, 2015; 16:15 GMT
Louis van Gaal takes his Manchester United team to the Boleyn Ground this Sunday as third placed United look to pull away in the battle for third in the Premier League. Sam Alladryce’s West Ham have moved down the table since their heady heights in one of the Champions League places, but the Hammers will look to arrest their slump that saw them get only 5 out of a possible 18 points in the last 6 matches. On the bright side, West Ham’s home form is decent, with 7 wins in their last 12 games at the Boleyn Ground. Van Gaal though will expect his Manchester United side to push on after wins over Leicester City in the Premier League and Cambridge in the FA Cup, as the embarrassingly rich attacking talent on show finally seemed to be getting into their rhythm as 3 goals were scored in both those games. The Premier League weekend concludes at Upton Park with this cracking game.
Team News & Tactical Brief
West Ham United
Three points cannot come at a better time for Sam Allardyce’s men, who have won only once in their last 6 Premier League games. Diafra Sakho’s ineligibility having been punished, the Senegalese striker will return after missing West Ham’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool. Sakho will slot in up front, replacing the injured Andy Carroll.
Alex Song will be the key performer for the Hammers though. The ex-Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder has provided stability at the base of the midfield diamond, giving licence to the likes of Mark Noble to get into attacking positions. Song should have his hands full as Manchester United’s attacking battery returns to full tilt after extensive injury lay-offs.
Stewart Downing has faded a bit since his spectacular start to the season at the top of the midfield diamond, but Hammers fans would be hoping he can test the iffy United back-line with his through balls. On the injury front, West Ham have big concerns as Cheikhou Kouyate, Winston Reid, James Collins, Andy Carroll, Guy Demel, Carl Jenkinson and James Tomkins fill up the medical room, although Reid and Collins might just make the starting line-up. They are missing some big players for this game, which might just give Manchester United the advantage.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-1-2-1-2): Adrian; Burke, Reid, O’Brien, Cresswell; Song, Noble, Nolan, Downing; Sakho, Valencia
With a lot of players coming back from injury, Manchester United can hope to kick start their season one last time as they aim to fend off their third spot in the Premier League from Southampton, Arsenal and Spurs. Louis van Gaal has seen things improve in their last two games, as United scored thrice in each game and won them convincingly. However, a repeat of the drab first half performance against QPR is never very far away, more so as Van Gaal continues to trust his 3-5-2 formation.
Wayne Rooney has been omnipresent in United’s battles against West Ham over the years, but perhaps it is time for Angel di Maria to justify his hefty price tag and Falcao to prove he belongs at Old Trafford. Van Gaal expects more from his troops and has indicated that nothing less than a win would do, which means United can only match or better their 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in September to keep their manager happy.
This will be a tricky trip for United, but it would have been trickier had West Ham not had so many injury problems. With the Hammers defence struggling to line up players, United’s front-men should look to capitalize and put in a decent attacking show at the Boleyn Park. United’s defenders must also have heaved a sigh of relief at news that big centre forward Andy Carroll is unavailable. Carroll could have posed some serious questions of United’s fragile back-line. On the injury front, only Michael Carrick is unavailable through injury so Rooney and Daley Blind should play in the heart of midfield. Ashley Young could return to the United line-up after his brief cameo against Cambridge.
Probable Starting Line-Up (3-5-2): De Gea; Jones, Evans, Marcos Rojo; Valencia, Blind, Rooney, Young, Di Maria; Van Persie, Falcao
- Rooney has scored 10 goals in his last 9 Premier League games against West Ham.
- The Hammers have scored more goals (10) than any other team in the Premier League in the 15 minutes just after half-time.
- Robin van Persie has scored in each of his last 5 Premier League games against West Ham, netting a total of 6 goals in that run.
facts courtesy FFT Stats Zone
Player to Watch out For
Angel di Maria
Time has come for the Argentine to justify his price tag. With niggling injuries and settling time behind him, a chance against an injury-ravaged defence should give Di Maria the impetus to perform on the big stage. He will cause more than a few problems to the Hammers defence, provided he plays in the number 10 position and not up front or too wide. Our prediction is Di Maria gets a goal-assist out of this game.
West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United
We back Manchester United to beat West Ham by the same margin as in their victory over Leicester. United’s attacking talent will prove too much for West Ham’s replacement defence, while the absence of Andy Carroll will do enough to keep West Ham to one goal or below.
Blast From the Past
We leave you with highlights from the reverse fixture between these two sides on 27 September 2014.