Manchester United will be desperate to get back to winning ways when they welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford on Saturday evening.
Just five more gameweeks remain for the 2018-19 Premier League season to come to an end, as teams continue to battle to achieve their objectives. The final game on Saturday will see Manchester United and West Ham United lock horns at Old Trafford, with both the teams looking to put an end to their respective two-game losing runs.
Manchester United have gone off the boil somewhat after a scintillating start to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial stint at the club back in December. The Red Devils have now lost four of their last five games across all competitions, with two of those defeats being in the Premier League – results which have sent them lagging behind in the race for top four.
West Ham are struggling in their own race, the chase for a top half finish, in which they were in a strong position not too long ago. But, four defeats in their last six league outings mean that the Hammers are now four points adrift of Watford, the tenth-placed side, while also having an extra game in hand.
The reverse fixture, played at the London Stadium back in September, was one of the catalysts towards Jose Mourinho getting the boot, with West Ham United handing a shock 3-1 loss to Manchester United. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Premier League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
If the drop in collective form was not worrying Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enough, there are plenty of other problems on his hands as well. In particular, the Manchester United boss is bereft of natural options for the full-back slots, with Diogo Dalot the only such player who is fully fit.
The major absentees are Ashley Young, who was sent off against Wolves ten days ago and is suspended for the West Ham game, and Luke Shaw, who will serve the first of his two-match ban after being shown a yellow card for the tenth time at the Molineux.
While Dalot is set to be one of the two full-backs, who takes the other slot is up in the air, with Matteo Darmian not fully fit. Marcos Rojo is an option, but Solskjaer flirted with the option of Phil Jones playing as a full-back. The English defender should thus, be the right-back, with Dalot on the opposite flank.
There are more concerns in midfield, with Nemanja Matic battling illness, while Ander Herrera is recovering from a knock. The duo are likely to miss out once again on Saturday, with Fred and Scott McTominay likely to keep their places after impressing against Barcelona this week.
Paul Pogba will be the third Manchester United midfielder, and the onus will be on the Frenchman to drive the hosts forward. The front-men – likely to be Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – will also have a lot riding on them, especially having been a little profligate in recent games.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): de Gea; Jones, Smalling, Lindelof, Dalot; Fred; McTominay, Pogba; Lingard; Rashford, Martial
West Ham United
Like his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Manuel Pellegrini has his hands full ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. On Saturday, the West Ham United boss could be without as many seven first-team players due to various short and long-term injuries.
Those who will definitely miss out are Jack Wilshere (match fitness), Carlos Sanchez (knee), Samir Nasri (calf), Winston Reid (knee), Andy Carroll (ankle) and Andriy Yarmolenko (Achilles). Michail Antonio, meanwhile, is facing a race against time to be available and is unlikely to be a part of the starting lineup.
The amount of injuries to attacking personnel means that Pellegrini does not have a gamut of choices for the four slots in the final third. While Javier Hernandez should lead the line for West Ham, Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson are automatic selections to man either side of the attack.
The final spot in attack will be a toss-up between Manuel Lanzini and Robert Snodgrass, with Lanzini likely to get the nod once again, as the orchestrator for the visitors. In midfield, Declan Rice and Mark Noble will have the responsibility of stifling the Manchester United forward movement, especially looking to mark out the half spaces.
At the back, Pellegrini left many surprised by leaving Pablo Zabaleta and Issa Diop out of the starting lineup last time out, and the duo should return against Manchester United. Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell though, are likely to retain their places, with Lukasz Fabianski starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Zabaleta, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble, Rice; Arnautovic, Lanzini, Anderson; Chicharito
1. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.53
2. Under 10.5 Corners @ 2.00
3. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @ 1.80
1. Romelu Lukaku to score 2 or more @ 4.33
- West Ham are hoping to do a league double over Manchester United for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
- However, Manchester United are unbeaten in the last 10 meetings between the two sides at Old Trafford (W8 D2).
- Manchester United could lose three consecutive league and cup fixtures for the first time since September 2016.
- West Ham United have kept just five clean sheets this season in the Premier League – only Fulham have recorded fewer.
- Lukasz Fabianski has made a Premier League-high 134 saves this season, 21 more than nearest rival David de Gea prior to the weekend.
Player to Watch
It is a well known fact that Manchester United have not quite been at their best lately. But, a closer look would show exactly why that has been the case. Paul Pogba, whose future at Old Trafford has been in the question in recent weeks, has been in a shadow of his domineering self for well over a month now.
In fact, one would have to go back to the game against Fulham to see when Pogba last dominated the game. So, it is hardly surprising that Manchester United have not blown sides away since that match, and it is clear that the Frenchman needs to rediscover his best form to inspire his side to winning ways.
However, if his stuttering run continues, West Ham United might just fancy their chances on the day. A key game beckons for Paul Pogba, and if he can return to his best, it could be the perfect stepping stone ahead of the second leg against Barcelona next week.
Manchester United 2-1 West Ham United
Saturday’s match pits two sides that have not quite managed to perform to their optimum levels of late. But, both teams have enough motivation to get back to winning ways on Saturday, with Manchester United having a great chance to cut the gap to a couple of their top four rivals, while West Ham United will be aiming to get closer to reclaiming a top half place.
West Ham though, have shown a tendency to switch off at crucial junctures all through the season, which is something that Manchester United can and will take an advantage on the day. Having said that, the hosts have their fair share of problems with defensive lapses.
All in all, the game has the makings of becoming a closely contested affair, although one that should see Manchester United prevail. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. to cut the gap to third-placed Chelsea.