Matchday: West Ham at Old Trafford

Is there to be any relief for the beleaguered Hammers and their manager at Old Trafford this afternoon?

Man Utd West HamThe West Ham fixture list of death rolls onto Old Trafford today for the first of two games in a week against Manchester United; a Premier League clash followed by the League Cup quarter final tie on Wednesday. When points are at a premium any old straw is suitable for clutching and a Sunday game against opponents recovering from Thursday night European action can offer a glimmer of hope. Disappointingly this was no many thousand mile round-trip to an outpost in far-eastern Europe and a bruising encounter with uncompromising opposition but a stroll in the park at home against Feyenoord. In many ways the worst possible result for West Ham’s hopes that will give an unconvincing Manchester side renewed sense confidence before returning to today’s league action. The Hammers on the other hand have had a whole week to dwell on the late, late surrender of three points at White Hart Lane last weekend.

There were some positives to take from the Tottenham game even if there was no reward at the end of it. As a minimum we need to see the same level of intensity, organisation, pace and energy that was shown for much of last week’s performance. Otherwise it is likely to end up as just another frustrating and barren trip to this particular north-west graveyard of dreams. Playing two games at Old Trafford in four days the chances of getting something from both would look to be very slim. In different circumstances I might be happy to trade defeat today for victory in the cup clash but the desperation for points, in a game where an 8-0 defeat would see the Hammers drop into the bottom 3, leaves the league game as the top priority.

Head to Head

Although West Ham’s record at Old Trafford is quite poor it is nowhere near as unprofitable as visits to Anfield have been and there have been some notable victories over the years; the most recent being the Tevez match on the last day of the 2006/07 great escape season. Before that there were two wins at either end of 2001 including the famous PDC/ Barthez goal, a memorable victory in the opening week of the 1986/87 season and exactly 40 years ago today West Ham ran out 2-0 victors with goals from Trevor Brooking and Billy Jennings.

































Team News

Winston Reid is suspended following the late sending off at White Hart Lane and there is a rumour that Andy Carroll is fit, although this is likely to be more of that fake news that we have been hearing about lately. Of course, Andy is our joint top scoring striker with 0 goals to his name and so the bar is not set too high for his return. I imagine that Sakho will start up front again following his energetic performance last week and maybe Carroll will be on the bench with Fletcher. It will be very disappointing if West Ham have bothered to pay Zaza’s train fare up to Manchester as surely even the most blind optimist knows by now that he is a lost cause; it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to continue to involve him.

“But I see the improvement. Against Spurs I saw a team hungry and alive, the points were there for us in a difficult away game, so that’s what I’m confident about.”

Slaven Bilic

With no right back available it is probable that the 3 at the back experiment will persist with Collins coming in for Reid and meaning that Antonio’s defending will open again to scrutiny this time by Mourinho’s men. One of the positives from last Saturday was the speed with which we broke but that is all likely to change with the re-introduction of skipper Mark ‘Sideways’ Noble into the midfield.

Bailly and Smalling are out for Manchester United who otherwise have no further injury or suspension concerns. Wayne Rooney requires two more goals to overtake fellow baldy Bobby Charlton as all-time Manchester United top scorer and who better than West Ham to oblige in such circumstances.

Man in the Middle

The referee today is Jonathan “Jon” Moss from West Yorkshire (why do so many referees seem to come from Yorkshire?). This is West Ham’s second encounter with Mr Moss this season; the first being the 3-0 home defeat by Southampton in September. Moss has officiated is 12 games so far this season issuing 57 yellow cards and 2 reds. Guaranteed that he will award Manchester United a penalty today (probably for some Ogbonna grappling).

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