This Week in Hammer’s History

FA Cup skirmishes and home debut goals for Hartson and Kitson in a windy Monday night match feature in this week’s Hammer’s History.

This Week Hammers HistoryIn last week’s Hammer’s History we remembered the 1972 FA Cup 4th round replay with Hereford United, memorable for its midweek afternoon kick-off as a consequence of the ongoing miner’s strike affecting electricity supply.  Just a few days later it was straight on to the 5th round with an away trip to Huddersfield Town.  The Terriers played Manchester City in the 2016/17 competition this weekend aiming to reach the 6th round for the first time since the elimination of the Hammers in 1972.  This was an all First Division at the time but the Hammers, who had recently lost out in the epic League Cup semi-final to Stoke, were favourites to go through against a team who had not scored in their last four outings and were languishing second from bottom in the league.  League standings counted for nothing, however, as Huddersfield tore into the Hammers to take the lead midway through the first half.  West Ham managed to level before half-time through Pop Robson but three second half goals (including one from Frank Worthington) put the hosts in control and despite a late Clyde Best consolation the tie ended 4-2.  Huddersfield were beaten by Birmingham in the semi-final and finished the season bottom of the First Division.

Ferguson, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Moore, Redknapp, Best, Hurst (Heffer), Brooking, Robson

In 2011, indifferent league form was again thrown aside in the FA Cup but on this occasion it was Avram Grant’s West Ham who were putting Eddie Howe’s Burnley to the sword.  The game marked a West Ham debut for Thomas Hitzlsperger some six months after signing on at Upton Park.  Der Hammer had begun his West Ham career in typical fashion by being injured for six months but it took him just 23 minutes to open his goal scoring account and set West Ham on the path to victory against Burnley.    Further goals from Carlton Cole (2) plus Winston Reid’s first for the club put the Hammers 4-0 up; a touch of comedy defending involving Wayne Bridge and Robert Green allowed Burnley to pull one back before Freddie Sears neat finish sealed a 5-1 victory.

Green, Reid, Tomkins, Jacobsen, Bridge, Sears, Parker, Noble, Hitzlsperger (Barrera), Cole (Spector), Ba (Piquionne)

It was 5-1 again against north-western opposition in the 5th round this time last year as West Ham eased past Championship side Blackburn Rovers.  Blackburn had gone ahead after 20 minutes through Ben Marshall but the lead was only to last 6 minutes as Victor Moses was allowed a clear run and shot to equalise.  Before half time a former French player scored from a trademark free kick to give West Ham a 2-1 interval lead.  The game was effectively over when Blackburn had a player sent off for two yellow card offences early in the second half and West Ham sealed the win with two goals from Emmanuel Emenike and another from the former French favourite.

Randolph, Cresswell, Collins, Ogbonna (Oxford), Antonio, Kouyate, Obiang (Lanzini), Noble (Song), Moses, Payet, Emenike

In league action West Ham lost 4-2 at home in 1984 to next weekend’s opponents Watford at Upton Park.  After the previous round of matches the Hammers were an encouraging third in the league just behind Liverpool and Nottingham Forest but a cup defeat at Birmingham and then a run of poor league performances led to a gradual slip down the table in Trevor Brooking’s final season.

In 1997 West Ham were struggling at the wrong end of the table when they entertained Tottenham in the Monday night match.  On a very windy night in east London, West Ham gave home debuts to expensive new striker signings John Hartson and Paul Kitson.  It was Spurs, however, who took the lead though Teddy Sheringham’s header marking the first of five first half goals.  West Ham snatched the lead when Julian Dicks and then Kitson headed home from corners, Darren Anderton lobbed an equalizer past Ludek Miklosko, and a brave header from Hartson made it 3-2 at half-time.  In a nail biting second half David Howells equalized once again for Tottenham before Hartson was fouled in the area allowing Dicks to blast home the resultant penalty.

Miklosko, Breacker, Dicks, Potts, Ferdinand, Bowen, Moncur, Bishop, Kitson (Dowie), Hartson, Hughes   

This Week’s Hammer’s Birthdays

20 February        Jimmy Greaves                 77
20 February        Billy Jennings                     65
22 February        Paul Brush                           59
22 February        Shaka Hislop                       48
24 February        Clyde Best                           66
24 February        John Lyall                             (Died 2006)
25 February        Kevin Keen                         50

This Week in Hammer’History

League Cup semi-finals and that memorable 9 goal Bradford thriller feature in the week 6 to 12 February in Hammer’s history.

This Week Hammers HistoryDuring the famous 1985/86 season West Ham only played one league matches between the middle of January and mid-March due to inclement weather and frozen pitches leading to severe fixture congestion during the final weeks of the season. Strangely, FA cup games were not affected and this week saw the culmination of a long running 4th round battle with Ipswich as the Hammers triumphed in a second replay at Portman Road by a solitary Tony Cottee goal.

If you can cast your mind back to 1989 you will remember it as a disappointing season that ended in relegation and the dismissal of John Lyall after 34 years with club.  The season was briefly brightened by an enjoyable League Cup campaign which included stirring home victories against Liverpool and Aston Villa. The semi-final opponents this week for the first leg at Upton Park were fellow first division strugglers Luton Town. The game was to prove just as disappointing as the rest of the season as Luton took a 3-0 lead into the second leg with goals from Mick Harford, Ray Wegerle and Danny Wilson (a penalty conceded by a young Julian Dicks). Luton went on to win the tie 5-0 on aggregate before losing in the final to Nottingham Forest.

There was also League cup semi-final exit in 1967 when once again West Bromwich Albion proved to be our nemesis. Having lost to Albion in the final the previous year a 2-2 draw in the second leg at Upton Park was academic as the Baggies booked their place at Wembley with a 6-2 aggregate win.

It was a much happier Upton Park in 1981, however, when second division West Ham faced first division Coventry City in a second leg semi-final encounter with the task of turning round a 3-2 first leg deficit. In what was one of those special nights under the Boleyn floodlights West Ham played some exceptional football (John Lyall described it as ‘some of the best football I’ve ever seen from a West Ham team’). Second half goals by Paul Goddard and an 87th minute strike from Jimmy Neighbour rounded off a great night on what was Billy Bonds 600th appearance for West Ham; setting up a final against Liverpool.

Parkes, Stewart, Lampard, Bonds, Martin, Devonshire, Neighbour, Goddard, Cross, Brooking, Pike

There may have been a 9 goal thriller at Goodison Park on Saturday but in 2000 West Ham featured in an unforgettable clash with Bradford City that not only had 9 goals but all-sorts of added drama. With the score goalless West Ham keeper suffered a broken leg after just 5 minutes played to be replaced by 18 year old Stephen Bywater making his first team debut. Bradford opened the scoring after 30 minutes through Dean Windass but the Hammers were soon level when Trevor Sinclair swept home and then led when John Moncur fired in from long range. However, it was back to all square at the interval as Peter Beagrie converted from the penalty spot following a push in the box by Moncur. After the break Bradford took the advantage with two goals from a red-haired Jamie Lawrence, the first a fumble by Bywater, gave the Bantams a 2-0 lead. As West Ham pushed forward Paolo Di Canio was denied several penalty appeals prompting him to demand that manager Harry Redknapp take him off. Redknapp managed to calm the Italian down and moments later West Ham were finally awarded a penalty, for a foul on Paul Kitson. This led to a penalty area tug-of-war between Di Canio and Frank Lampard Jnr as to who should take the resulting kick; in the end Di Canio prevailed and, fortunately for him, scored from the spot to make it 3-4. A goal from Joe Cole brought the scores level again after 65 minutes before Lampard struck from the edge of the area with seven minutes remaining to complete the scoring at 5-4 to West Ham.  Possibly one of the most bizarre matches ever to take place at the Boleyn.

Hislop (Bywater), Charles (Kitson), Minto, Lomas, Stimac, Ferdinand, Sinclair, Cole, Di Canio, Lampard, Moncur

5 Observations from City Humiliation

Another night of tame surrender against Manchester City at the London Stadium.

5 Things WHUWere they great or were we terrible?

Whenever I see such an uneven game as happened last night (and indeed the cup tie a few weeks ago) I wonder how much of it was due to the opposition playing really well and how much was down to our own incompetence.  Generally commentators like to take a polarised view but usually it is a combination of the two.  There are many similarities in the style of play of Manchester City and Arsenal and it is telling that both have thumped us on our own turf.  For many years we have been vulnerable against teams that run at our defence at pace.  We seem able to competently nod away crosses until the cows come home but incisive passing and movement rips through the heart of our defences at will and with ease.  My sense is that even our players recognise this collective fragility and once the first goal goes in then, as far as they are concerned, it is just of case of how many will follow – as if it is a fate that no-one has the wit or strength to resist.

Where have all the tactics gone?

Manchester City are a very wealthy club who probably have far better players that don’t even make the bench than West Ham do as regular starters.  This is the way of modern cash rich football and it will be impossible for West Ham to get close to the top teams without major external investment, which will probably happen just before the next financial crisis.  In the meantime it is still 11 versus 11 and last year we enjoyed notable success against several top clubs by tactically stifling their major threats.  Tactics appeared to be patently absent yesterday with no particularly plan to either offset the attacking threat of a quick breaking opposition or in putting their inconsistent back-line under any form of pressure.  It was if all that was written on the dressing room white board was “Hope for the Best”.  With the array of attacking talent at their disposal you need to frustrate and press City and not give them acres of space to play as they please.  Whenever I have seen them as casual observer it is obvious how important de Bruyne is to them offensively and yet we were happy to give him a free access all areas pass.  Not for the first time we were completely over-run in midfield.  We may still have lost regardless but the speed with which heads dropped and spirit evaporated shows a disappointing absence of leadership and character.

All things must pass

In his post-match comments Slaven Bilic bemoaned the fact that we gave the ball away cheaply for two of the first three goals.  It would be difficult to disagree with the manager on that one but the fact is that it has been a problem all season, just that we were punished for that sloppiness by a clinical City side on this occasion.  I believe that we are one of the worst teams for maintaining possession where it matters in the Premier League and it makes me wonder whether anything is done in training in order to improve matters.  As I have written previously good passing teams do not only rely solely on successful execution of the pass but also on having more than one player making themselves available at any one time.  Obiang’s pass that led to the third goal was an example of poor execution but quite what Cresswell was thinking for the all-important opening goal is anyone’s guess, there was no West Ham player anywhere near where he played the ball.  Far too often when our players do not have the ball they stand about static and flat footed.

No place for sentiment

Football is a very different game from when I first started watching, a time when players stayed at clubs for years and many were local lads made good.  It is unfortunate that much of the sense of community and belonging has been lost but most of football has faced reality and moved with the times.  I often feel that West Ham are stuck in a time warp with a sentimentality that is at odds with the multi-million pound industry that football has become.  It is not enough for a player or manager to be West Ham through and through or for someone to keep his place in the team because he did alright last time out.  A team needs to be selected that can get the best from any particular fixture.  There are still many unanswered questions on Slaven Bilic’s managerial credentials at Premier League level.  The recent run of wins bought him some time but he does not convince.  I am sure he is a nice guy but football is full of nice failures.  I would imagine that his performance during the remainder of the season will be under extreme scrutiny and that it will require noticeable improvement if he is to keep his job.  His record on player recruitment, tactics, preparation, fitness and selection leaves much to be desired as far as I am concerned.  It would be great to see him succeed but I am not hopeful.

What about the positives?

The most significant positive is that we do not have to play Manchester City again this season and our only remaining heavy defeat should be away at Arsenal.  Other than that Michail Antonio worked hard and new signing Robert Snodgrass looked sharp when he finally came on.  I was wrong in my pre-match prediction that we would be 2 goals down when Snodgrass came off the bench.  The other debutant Jose Fonte had a bit of a nightmare and worryingly looked very slow, let’s hope he has a couple more gears in the mythical locker.

Ratings: Randolph (6), Byram (4), Reid (6), Fonte (4), Cresswell (4), Obiang (5), Noble (5), Feghouli (3), Lanzini (5), Antonio (7), Carroll (6) Subs: Snodgrass (6), Fernandes (5), Fletcher (5)

Who Ate All The Pi’s

What do the stats reveal about West Ham player performance? Or are they digitally challenged?

Football StatsWith a temporary hiatus in West Ham’s fixture commitment due to an early cup exit, and while other Premier League teams field second rate sides in the 4th round in deference to the imminent Match-week 23,  I have taken the opportunity to dust down my football statistics soapbox and take another look at how our heroes have performed this campaign as far as the soccer statisticians are concerned.

My position on statistics is that they are an interesting diversion and a perfect destination for the procrastinator but are ultimately meaningless as a means of analysing games, providing no further insight over and above what the eyes can tell the average supporter.  The ever expanding mass of football statistics are most frequently used by the desperate in  attempting to prove a point about their favourite player (why Noble is better than Kouyate or vice versa) or to pad out column inches in printed and online media (just like this one!)  In the last week or so my attention has been grabbed by a number of posts that inform readers exactly what the statistics reveal.  For example, they apparently ‘reveal’ that Liverpool are not very good defensively (no shit, Sherlock!) and, closer to home, that Pedro Obiang is the ‘best’ tackler in the Premier League.  Recently the Daily Star had a feature on the worst player at every club according to the statistics; the recipient of this accolade for West Ham being Ashley Fletcher who came out as the 5th worst player overall.

For the purposes of analysis I have once again referenced the excellent whoscored website.  Even though I pay little heed to the how football statistics are used the site provides a comprehensive and well presented resource that includes an intriguing real-time stat update during the course of the game if you are so inclined.  According to Whoscored over 200 raw statistics are fed into complex algorithms in order to derive both the team and player ratings.

Ratings are based on a unique, comprehensive statistical algorithm, calculated live during the game. There are over 200 raw statistics included in the calculation of a player’’s/team’’s rating, weighted according to their influence within the game. Every event of importance is taken into account, with a positive or negative effect on ratings weighted in relation to its area on the pitch and its outcome.

– Whoscored website

Looking at the team ratings the order of clubs is uncannily consistent with the current Premier League placings.  The top 7 clubs are all the same with the minor discrepancy that the order of the two Manchester clubs are reversed.  In Whoscored terms West Ham show up in 8th place overall rather than the actual 10th place of our league position. The lower reaches of the League also demonstrates a strong correlation between actual and statistical placings except that Palace appear several places higher (14th against 18th) from the perspective of statistical performance.  So what does all this prove?  Does it validate the statistics and the algorithms applied or is it simply the case that scoring goals and winning games carries the same weighted influence on position as do in the collection of league points?  My takeaway from West Ham’s higher position in the statistical table is that it must prove that we played well and lost on several occasions this season.  Convincing myself of such a conclusion might be stretch.

The top performing players in the league if the stats are to be believed are Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba.  The only Hammer to make the top 10 is Dimitri Payet (at number nine).  All of that top 10 are attacking players with the exception of Manchester City defensive stalwart Nicolas Otamendi, proving that City fans wanting him dropped are mistaken.

A point to note about the top 10 is that ratings are adjusted to account for appearances and should you look at the unadjusted ratings for West Ham you would find Andy Carroll performing better than Payet.  It is surprising to learn of the quality of Payet’s performances when the consensus of many observers is that he had been going through the motions and loafing about on the left wing.  Although I am not privy to the Whoscored algorithms I would guess that the factors driving his strong statistical performances (based on displayed data) are the number of assists (6) and man-of-the-match awards (5).

I do find the ‘assist’ a curious statistic in that a large part of earning one is dependent on someone else doing their job competently.  A player can embark on a wonderful run, go past three defenders and play a delightful pass through to a colleague who has an open goal, but if that player fluffs his lines then no assist ensues.  On the other hand make a simple routine pass to someone who rockets the ball into the net from 30 yards and you win yourself an assist.  With up to 30% of goals for some teams coming from set pieces the designated takers (Payet and Snodgrass) are always going to have an advantage with this although I fully appreciate that good delivery should not be an underestimated skill.

Ex-Arsenal boss Don Howe is credited with devising the definition of the assist when it was first created as a way of adding interest to newspaper fantasy league competitions.  From its humble beginnings it is now a mainstay of the commentator’s statistical armoury.

Looking at the individual player statistics, the top 6 high rating Hammers for the season are Carroll, Payet, Michail Antonio, Winston Reid, Arthur Masuako (yes!) and Darren Randolph.  New signing Robert Snodgrass (second in the ratings at Hull) would slot in at number 7 for West Ham just ahead of fellow midfielders Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang and Manuel Lanzini (with skipper Mark Noble floundering in a disappointing 16th place).  Defender Jose Fonte (11th in the Southampton ratings) has a performance rating very slightly higher than James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna, some way behind Reid.  Fonte’s former central defensive partner, Dick Van Djik, is comfortably on the topper most rung of Southampton performers.

For the record. my personal statistic free selections for top performing West Ham players for the season to date are Obiang, Reid and Antonio.  The top 3 could well be under threat if there is more of the recent same from Carroll over the remainder of the season.

Matchday: Hammers versus Eagles

The “Careful What You Wish For” derby sees Sam Allardyce return to West Ham.

West Ham PalaceTo start with an apology for previously giving the impression that Dimitri Payet was one of the most skillful players ever to wear the claret and blue of West Ham, that he was the undisputed master of the assist, the team talisman without whom we never win and a veritable sorcerer when it came to the sublime or sumptuous set-piece. We can now reveal that the petulant, perfidious Payet is in fact the quintessential cowardly, overweight, backstabbing, surrender monkey who would barely make the top 10 famous people from Reunion Island were it not for the stage presented to him by West Ham.

There has been a lot of negative comment on Payet’s behaviour in the media from pundits (even sober ones), managers and players alike although that will not prevent clubs carefully putting any principles to one side and queuing  up to offer him a lucrative contract. In an ideal world he could be left to stew but, as today’s visiting manager has demonstrated, you would need to have committed a particular heinous crime such as biting the heads of babies (or being compromised by a Russian hooker) to become unemployable in an industry as morally bankrupt as modern football.

“We haven’t got a big squad now left, we just have the players for this game. But we have enough players to put a strong team out and have good players on the bench. It is the team that I am managing. Many times clubs have lost quality players but gained a team.”

– Slaven Bilic on his small but good squad

So it is that the shamed but unrepentant ex-England manager who brings his latest long-ball charges to face the Payet-less Hammers at the London Stadium this afternoon. Both clubs would have started the season with hopes and dreams that didn’t involve a potential relegation battle but as events have panned out we find ourselves with a four-and-a-half pointer if not a fully fledged six-pointer on our hands. Expect the Fat One to set up in respect the point mode to see how the West Ham team react to their new reality.

Head to Head

Depending where you look West Ham have played Crystal Palace anywhere between 31 and 76 times. The following stats exclude long ago Southern League and war-time cup competitions which makes encounters between the two clubs a rather recent rivalry that West Ham have largely bossed. Palace have won only one of the last 5 meetings but the Hammers haven’t beaten them at home (even at fortress Upton Park) since 2003.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

17

10

5

2

22

13

DLLDWW

Away

18

 6

7

5

29

18

WWWLDL

 

35

16

12

7

51

31

 

Team News

Whatever the West Ham lineup all the talk in the build-up, during the game and in the post match analysis will be about Dimitri Payet. The final straw for Payet apparently was when they let Cresswell take a free kick at Leicester – I knew no good would come of it!  Sam Byram and Reece Oxford are now both fit but “lack match fitness”; I would like to see both involved at some point so that they can actually work on that fitness. Ayew and Kouyate, of course, are away on international duties and Michail Antonio was reported as being ill (hopefully not with a bout of Chelsea flu!). From what has been said the manager expects Manuel Lanzini to step up to create all of our chances; so no pressure there Manuel. I would like to believe that we will put out a team full of pace, passion, movement and with not too many players played out of position.  It is only hope that keeps us going so let’s see what happens.

“If there are any fears left in their players because of the new stadium then we need to try to take advantage of it. If we can put pressure on them and try to score the first goal then that will be very important.  I had four happy years at West Ham and one of the reasons I am at Palace is because of London. I enjoyed living here.”

– Fat Sam

I am always nervous when former players and managers make a return to face West Ham and today we have two for the price of one in Fat Sam and James Tomkins. On the plus side Palace have their best (albeit very unpredictable) player, Wilfred Zaha, away at the ACON. Benteke has a shoulder injury but should be fit and Townsend will be excited at playing against a team without a proper right back.

I have my fingers crossed for a Payexit bounce and a 2-0 home win.

Man in the Middle

We are joined in the middle this afternoon by Neil Swarbrick from Lancashire. This is his second visit to the London Stadium after being in charge of the Middlesbrough game in October last year (some French player scored our goal if I remember correctly). In all competitions this season Swarbrick has featured 20 times furnishing 75 Yellows but only 2 Red cards.

The Lawro Challenge – Week 21

Preeminent pundit and BBC prediction pro continues his steady fightback in our Lawro challenge.

Lawro Crystal BallTwenty rounds of games in the Premier League have now been completed. That means we have now predicted the results of 200 matches.

In Week 20, Rich scored 5 points, Geoff 5 points, and Lawro 8 points, enabling him to close the gap at the top still further.

In this challenge we award one point for a correct result, and a further two points (making three in total) if the score prediction is spot on.

We now march on to week 21.

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Total after 19 weeks

162

120

153

Score in week 20

5

5

8

Total after 19 weeks

167

125

161

 

 

 

 

Predictions – Week 21

 

 

 

 

Rich

Geoff

Lawro

Saturday

 

 

 

Tottenham v WBA

2-0

3-1

2-0

Burnley v Southampton

1-1

1-0

1-1

Hull v Bournemouth

2-1

1-1

1-2

Sunderland v Stoke

1-1

2-3

1-1

Swansea v Arsenal

1-2

1-3

0-2

Watford v Middlesbrough

1-1

0-0

1-1

West Ham v Palace

2-1

2-0

1-1

Leicester v Chelsea

1-2

2-2

2-1

Sunday

 

 

 

Everton v Man City

1-2

1-1

1-2

Man United v Liverpool

1-0

0-1

1-1

 

 

 

 

Matchday: West Ham ‘entertain’ Manchester United

The other United take their bus to the London Stadium for today’s late kickoff.

West Ham Man UtdThe visitors to the London Stadium today are Manchester United who, in terms of revenue, continue to be the biggest club in the Premier League. Given the strong correlation between money and success the Manchester club have underperformed since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and this season, under third post-Fergie manager, Jose Mourinho, are once again off the pace from the leading pack. Coming into today’s game on a run of 5 straight wins they remain 13 points behind leaders Chelsea and 7 behind second place Liverpool.

Mourinho has brought his 19th century tactics and introduced the traditional siege mentality to the Old Trafford club and we will need a strong performance from referee Mike ‘Penalty King’ Dean this afternoon.

“We played a good game. I’m very disappointed, angry, frustrated we lost. They started better, we knew they were going to start aggressively and for the first 20 minutes they deserved the goal. I’m very disappointed but we played a good game and that makes one part of me satisfied. We look good but that final product wasn’t there.”

– Slaven Bilic on defeat at Leicester

West Ham’s mini-revival was brought to an abrupt halt in the East Midlands on New Year’s Eve and it will require one of those ‘obscene’ performances to repeat last year’s rousing victory in the final Boleyn encounter.

Head to Head

West Ham’s home record against Manchester United is a reasonably healthy one although last year’s success was the first in the league since 2007. It was also the only victory against the Red Devils in the last 12 meetings home and away.

 

P

W

D

L

F

A

Sequence

Home

62

26

21

15

103

90

WLDLDD

Away

65

13

11

41

60

148

LDDDLL

 

127

39

32

56

163

238

 

Team News

There are no new escapees from the treatment room and Mark Noble has become a new inmate after getting a whack on the knee in the Leicester game. It has become very difficult to anticipate Slaven Bilic’s selection decisions and, for all I know, he may be plotting something revolutionary like playing rush-goalie. The logical changes, for me, to the team that lost on Saturday would be to recall Pedro Obiang to centre midfield and start with Manuel Lanzini instead of Andre Ayew. I am much happier with a back 4 and the added protection that Obiang provides provided that Angelo Ogbonna stays awake for the whole game. Also time for Dimitri Payet to step up and put in a performance to impress the visiting manager.

“It’s a challenge for everybody but Chelsea, as they play only on the 4th, Tottenham played Sunday and then on the 4th. For us and West Ham it’s the same – difficult. Middlesbrough play at 12 o’clock, so less than 48 hours. It’s very hard, especially when you see the intensity of this game.”

– Jose Mourinho on everything being so unfair.

Manchester United are without their best defender Eric Bailly who has already left for the Africa Cup of Nations and may be without Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney. Fingers crossed that Rooney is not involved and is thus unable to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal-scoring record on our manor. Mourinho’s side are more a bunch of individuals than a cohesive team but they do have some exceptional talent; we will do well to get anything from today’s game.

The Man in the Middle

Welcome for the second time this season Mike Dean from The Wirral (just down the road from Manchester). He previously officiated in our match at White Hart Lane where he sent off Winston Reid. Reid is the season’s top penalty giver with 10 awarded to date. In his 16 games he has flourished 72 Yellow and 4 Red cards.