Friday 12 April 2019

Match preview: Man Utd v West Ham

Man Utd's recent stumbles sees Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side in sixth place and in vital need of points to get our Champions League challenge back on track ahead of the visit of the Hammers. United have lost four out of the last five as we prepare to welcome former City manager Manuel Pellegrini and his West Ham team to Old Trafford in the tea-time kick off.
The Hammers enjoyed a 3-1 win over the Reds in east London back in September but their challenge has since faded and they've slipped to eleventh having lost four of the last six in the league. Despite this indifferent run, Pellegrini's Hammers are only five points off seventh-placed Wolves in the congested battle to become the Premier League's "best of the rest."

Solskjaer will be forced into several changes, notably at full-back with both Ashley Young and Luke Shaw suspended, with the latter to also miss the return fixture at the Nou Camp and next weekend's tie at Everton. Diogo Dalot will return to his more natural position on the right, with forgotten man Marcos Rojo set to make his first Reds appearance in four months at left-back. I can confirm that the Argentinian drug lord is alive and well! Rojo will vie with fellow outcast Matteo Darmian to get the nod although both seem certain to leave Old Trafford in the summer.

Ander Herrera, Eric Bailly, Alexis Sanchez and Antonio Valencia remain sidelined by injuries with Nemanja Matic doubtful through illness. The visitors are beset by a plethora of injury problems with seven players on the treatment table. Michail Antonio will return, but Samir Nasri (calf) is out. Jack Wilshere and Carles Sanchez are nearing returns whilst Andriy Yarmolenko and Winston Reid are both long term absentees.

We have a very strong record at Old Trafford against West Ham, with the Reds only losing at home twice to the Hammers in the Premier League era. It has been a fixture that usually provides goals for United, with 12 of our 18 wins over the Hammers at home being by two goals or more. The highest-scoring victory was in April 2000, where we eased past the London outfit in a 7-1 victory. Our most recent encounter at the Theatre of Dreams was 18 months ago - and that too proved to be a goal glut. Romelu Lukaku dazzled in his first league appearance for the Reds as the Belgian scored a brace, along with late strikes from our French duo Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, in a 4-0 win to get the 2017/18 campaign off to a flyer.

Solskjaer admitted that United are still pushing for third place, and said: "We need as many points as possible and I think if we get 15 we'll be top three, because in those games hopefully we'll beat Chelsea.
"But now it's about West Ham and focusing on a good performance to give us three points.
"We want top three. Top four is also an aim if we don't get 15 points but we should aim for 15. That's our target."

All eyes will be on 20-year-old United summer target Declan Rice. Having risen through the ranks of West Ham's revered youth Academy, Rice received his first England call up last month and has been touted as a potential replacement for Herrera in our midfield.

Form guide: Man Utd W L L W L L West Ham L W L W L L
Match odds: Man Utd 2/5 Draw 7/1 West Ham 4/1
Referee: Graham Scott takes charge of United for the first time this season

Likely Man Utd XI: De Gea; Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Rojo; Fred, Pogba, McTominay; Lingard, Lukaku, Martial
Likely West Ham XI: Fabianski; Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell; Rice, Noble; Antonio, Obiang, Felipe Anderson; Arnautovic.

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