Manchester United will be looking to extend their winning run to six matches when they take on West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium.
The Red Devils survived a scare in their last league encounter as they came from behind to score two dramatic goals in the dying stages to secure the three points against a gritty Middlesbrough outfit.
World-record signing Paul Pogba continued to prove why Jose Mourinho paid such a hefty fee to secure his services. Anthony Martial also managed to find the back of the net after a long time.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, too, has been in terrific form in his first season in the Premier League. He is United’s top goal scorer this term, finding the back of the net on 17 occasions in all competitions.
After a relatively mundane start to life at Old Trafford, Mourinho has suddenly received a positive response from his players which in turn has led to an upturn in the club’s fortunes. On their first visit to West Ham’s new home – The Olympic Stadium – United will be hoping to start off the new year on a positive note.
The Hammers, on the other hand, have been woefully erratic this season and have failed to replicate their performances of last season. Known to be one of the giant killers of last season with Dimitri Payet and Michael Antonio at their flying best, West Ham have been a mere shadow of the behemoths they were last time around.
Manager Slaven Bilic has been lost for words in response to his side’s performances, and more bad results could see the Croat get his termination letter. A 12th placed table position is certainly not going to gel well with the fans, and they will be hoping for their side to fight for a European berth in the new year.
After shuffling his pack slightly against Boro on New Year’s eve, Mourinho may revert to his tried and trusted stalwarts at the back. Antonio Valencia is expected to start at right-back with Matteo Darmian on the opposite side.
Phil Jones was rested for the last game and is set to return to the fray, partnering Marcos Rojo at the back. In midfield, Michael Carrick is expected to return after an illness, and will partner Ander Herrera.
Pogba’s exceptional link-up play with Ibrahimovic has seen United churn out crucial wins of late, and the two are expected to be the focal point of the club’s attack. The Frenchman will play off the Swede and create chances for the men around him.
For the hosts, goalkeeper Darren Randolph has been pivotal in guiding his side out of a relegation scrap, and will take his position between the sticks for the battle against United. Ahead of him, a centre-back pairing of Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna will look to nullify the opposition threat.
Playing in midfield will be the duo of Michael Lanzini and Cheikhou Kouyate. Andre Ayew is expected to play as a number 10 with Michael Antonio and Dimitri Payet on either sides of him.
- West Ham are unbeaten in their last four Premier League meetings with Manchester United (W1 D3) – they’ve never gone five games unbeaten by them in their English league history.
- Manchester United lost away at West Ham last season, in the last ever game at the Boleyn Ground – they’ve not lost consecutive away games against West Ham since December 2007.
- Slaven Bilic could become only the second manager to remain unbeaten in his first four Premier League encounters with the Red Devils (Ruud Gullit the other).
- Anthony Martial has scored five goals in his last four appearances against West Ham in all competitions.
- The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last four on the road (W3 D1); they haven’t gone five unbeaten in the Premier League since February 2015 (seven games).
- Manchester United last won three consecutive Premier League away games in April 2014, when they enjoyed four successive victories – a run that also included a win over West Ham.
- Paul Pogba has been directly involved in four goals in his last four Premier League appearances (two goals, two assists).
1. Manchester United to win @ 1.65
2. Both Teams to Score @ 1.80
3. Over 1.5 West Ham United Cards @ 1.57
4. Over 9.5 Corners @ 1.72
1. Over 3.5 Match Goals @ 3.00
West Ham 1-2 Manchester United
Both sides are filled with quality attackers, but have fallen short on the defensive third. While United have continued to rack up wins, they have also conceded a few needless goals.
Mourinho has seldom played an unchanged back four, and is likely to tinker things around once again. Thus, both teams are likely to score. The Red Devils’ squad is bolstered by some world-class names and that could be just what separates the two sides on the day.