Manchester United vs West Ham United match preview
United entertain West Ham at Old Trafford on Wednesday night (8pm KO), looking to maintain their position of the top of the Premier League table. Victory against QPR on Saturday, combined with the dour 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, saw the Reds leapfrog City and take top spot. West Ham, on the other hand, suffered their third defeat on the road this season, going down 3-1 at Spurs. Despite the loss, the Londoners find themselves in 9th position in the table – 19 points a great return in their first season back in England’s top division. A home win could see United go 4 points clear, an away win could see the Hammers rise as high as 5th.
AT A GLANCE
United: Nani, Vidic, Kagawa remain out. Scholes suspended. Anderson starts. Valencia fitness test. Jones/Smalling available. Van Persie 3 league games without a goal. Rooney has 8 goals in 9 games v West Ham.
Home record: P6 W5 D0 L1 F18 A9 Pts15
Home form: W W L W W W
West Ham: Vaz Te, Collison, Diarra remain out. Noble suspended. Carroll scored first goal against Spurs. Nolan (5) top league goalscorer. 5 different (single) goalscorers away from home.
Away record: P6 W2 D1 L3 F5 A9 Pts
Away form: L D W L W L
Previous league meetings at OT: United 3-0 West Ham (28-8-10), United 3-0 West Ham (23-2-10), United 2-0 West Ham (29-10-08), United 4-1 West Ham (3-5-08)
Referee: Mike Jones. 30 yellow cards given this season, an average of 3.75 every game. 13 to home sides, 17 away.
West Ham have allowed home sides 99 shots on their (away) goal this season. That’s an average of 16.5 shots per game. Despite their decent defensive record, Jaaskelainen has been busy. United have struck 91 shots at Old Trafford, an average of just over 15 each game. Expect there to be chances.
West Ham have picked up the most yellow cards of any side this season. Sam Allardyce has seen his players booked 30 times already. 21 of these cautions came away from home. Mark Noble picked up his fifth of the season against Spurs at the weekend, and is therefore suspended.
United have the joint best home attack (18 goals), but the joint-fifth worst home defence (9). West Ham have the the joint-fifth best away defence (9), but the fourth worst away attack (5).
After his match-winning display against QPR on Saturday, Anderson starts. We were all hoping it; Fergie confirmed it himself on Monday. With Paul Scholes suspended – picking up his fifth booking of the season in the same game – and Darren Fletcher unlikely to start two matches in quick succession after his recent injury problem, expect to see a new central-midfield pairing. Michael Carrick was given a rare weekend off, so should come back into the side. Tom Cleverley was an unused sub, of course, so is also fit to come in if the manager sees fit.
With Nani a confirmed – and continued – absentee (hamstring) and Antonio Valencia struggling (hip), Ashley Young could be our only fit winger. Danny Welbeck can – and has continually been (groan) – deployed there, of course, but still doesn’t look entirely comfortable in the position. But the goals of Hernandez, as well the blossoming partnership of Rooney and van Perise, makes it hard to see how he fits in centrally at the moment. But we’ve seen Fergie play this “struggling with injury” card before; it wouldn’t be a shock to see Valencia start. Should he not, I know many fans would like to see a return of the midfield diamond. I would too. With West Ham likely to pack the midfield, a quartet of Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson and Rooney would combat it nicely, as well as allowing “Chicharito” a start alongside RvP in attack.
In defence, with Jones and Smalling fit again, the problems are easing. Rafael, as we all know, has grown into a strong, mature right-back. Once described as being “made of glass” by many, the cheeky Brazilian has been an almost ever-present this season. Rio Ferdinand has proved he can start two games in four days, but it would not be surprising to see either Jones or Smalling come in, allowing Rio to prepare for Reading away. Jonny Evans is starting to show why Fergie was confident enough in his future he felt able to allow Gerard Pique to return to Barcelona, and why many Reds are touting him as a potential United captain. Expect Jonny, fresh from another goal on the weekend, to start again. At left-back, Patrice Evra remains relatively unchallenged, with Alex Buttner not providing the instant competition to his place many United fans had hoped for. With the trickery of Matt Jarvis expected on the West Ham wing, Evra’s experience should see him get the nod.
In goal, your guess is as good as mine! Flip a coin, roll a dice, pick a card. It doesn’t matter. Anders Lindegaard has started the last three games, so should be getting into the swing of things again. Therefore, it’s about time he was “rested”. It’s an on-going annoyance – not knowing who our number one really is (although I think I know who most fans would choose) – and I expect the merry-go-round to continue.
Predicted United line-up: De Gea, Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Anderson, Young, Rooney, RvP.
Anyone with Winston Reid or Jussi Jaaskelainen in their Fantasy Football teams will tell you that West Ham have kept things reasonably tight at the back this season. Only nine goals conceded away from home is bettered only by four other Premier League sides (City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Swansea, if you wondered.) And six of those goals came in only two matches (Swansea and Spurs.) Generally, Big Sam has made them a tough side to break down on their travels. The flip-side of this, though, is that they are also the fourth lowest away league goalscorers. Andy Carroll’s late consolation in their 3-1 defeat at Tottenham was only the fifth goal they have scored on their travels. Even QPR – bottom of the table, of course – have mustered more goals on the road.
In terms of players, West Ham have had five ever-presents this season. Jussi Jaaskelainen, Winston Reid, Kevin Nolan, Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble – suspended for Wednesday’s trip North – have started every league match so far. Noble, a fine passer and knitter of play, will be a big miss for them. A local lad, Noble is currently the longest serving member of the West Ham squad, having first broke into the first team in 2007. His likely replacement in the side will be Matty Taylor, with Gary O’Neil moving inside to accompany Diame and Nolan in a three-man midfield. Matt Jarvis or Modibo Maiga should occupy the other wing. Maiga started the trip to Spurs on the weekend, but was replaced by Jarvis after half-an-hour – with no obvious sign of injury (the look on his face said as much!) – so it will be interesting to see who starts.
Of these players, Matt Jarvis has given us problems before. He terrorised numerous right-backs during his spell at Wolves and will give Rafael a stern examination if given him the chance. A decent dribbler with the ball, and blessed with good pace, his runs on the counter-attack are a potential problem. Should he be deployed on the right, we can expect the same against Evra. Of the midfield three, Diame, especially, is a danger. A big, strong, rangey central player, the Senegalese international possesses a dangerous shot, despite his poor goal record. Allow him space within reasonable distance, he can and will pose us a danger. And then there’s Kevin Nolan, of course. Their top scorer this season, the ex-Newcastle man almost makes an art of arriving late into the box, much like Frank Lampard once did. Expect him to be sniffing around any loose balls or knock-downs in and around our penalty area.
Speaking of knock-downs, we should expect to see Andy Carroll up front. The minus-fifteen-million pound player needs no introduction, really. He scored the first goal of his loan spell against Spurs – a header would you believe – so should be full of confidence. Needless to say, he will be a handful in the air, less so over the top. He will have to be watched closely at set pieces and – while he may win his fair share of aerial battles from open play – we will have to be wary of second balls from those knock-downs and flick-ons. While Rio’s pace has long gone, and Jonny Evans has never been overly-blessed with it to begin with, the two – should they start together again – needn’t unduly worry about chasing back facing their own goal.
In defence, fully expect to see a back five of Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Tomkins, Reid, McCartney. They have started the Hammers’ last three games. Sam Allaryce did criticise his side’s defending in their defeat at Spurs, however, so it will be interesting to see if he fights the urge to make any changes. If he does, James Collins is fit and ready to step in.
Predicted West Ham line-up: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Reid, Tomkins, McCartney, Jarvis, Nolan, Diame, O’Neil, Taylor, Carroll.
Score prediction: United 3-1 West Ham
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