Manchester United finally got over their goalless nightmare with a remarkable Manchester Derby win, ending a run of three consecutive draws. Doing so, they were able to keep their stronghold in the second spot in the Premier League – but competition is heating up behind.
The Red Devils are only six points safe from dropping out of the top-4 and their next opponents, West Ham United, are dark horses to seal a finish in the Champions League places. Consistency is key for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to not only secure a second-place finish at the end of the season but also a place in the Champions League next season. Unless they bring their very best against the Hammers, those dreams could get seriously dented.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Diallo, Bruno, Rashford, Greenwood
To make things worse, the Red Devils are piled with injury concerns right now. Anthony Martial hobbled off against AC Milan in the Europa League clash, meaning he’s a doubt. Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Juan Mata & Edinson Cavani are still unfit. Marcus Rashford, however, could return.
West Ham United Likely XI
Fabianski, Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Lanzini, Fornals, Antonio
West Ham defenders Arthur Masuaku & Angelo Ogbonna are both out for this with injuries. Ryan Fredericks could return from injury. Man United loanee Jesse Lingard is ineligible to play against his parent club.
Manchester United vs West Ham United Preview
The games are coming thick & fast for Man United, who are having to play multiple games every week. While that is understandably having an effect on their performances – being the major reason for their inconsistency – there is no time to rest at the business end of the campaign.
After playing out a cagey draw with AC Milan in the Europa League, the Red Devils look to maintain their winning momentum in the Premier League & pick up from where they left off against City. They face an inspired West Ham side riding on some incredible form in 2021&capable of embarrassing them if not careful.
Bruno Fernandes will be tasked to be the creative force for United again. The Portuguese midfielder aims to find gaps in West Ham’s defence & deliver quality splitting passes, while also get in some great scoring positions himself to get back scoring from open play.
Marcus Rashford might have to pass a final fitness test, but he’ll be desperate to start & torment West Ham’s defenders with his pace & trickery down the left. Amad Diallo made quite the remarkable impact against Milan in mid-week with his brilliant debut goal, which could get him a PL start on Sunday.
With his unique dribbling ability & feistiness in the final third, he could bring that unpredictable spark to United’s attack. Mason Greenwood should get another go in the centre-forward role & must be more infatuated with finishing off chances & be more ruthless in the final third than be concerned with build-up play. This game, however, will probably be decided in midfield.
While Bruno has to be smart with his work to keep Declan Rice & Tomas Soucek off his back, Scott McTominay & Fred also must support him properly. The midfield duo must press the West Ham players with intensity to recover possession & improve their forward passing to initiate swift breaks. But of course, OGS’s side can’t rely on only counter-attacking goals here.
West Ham are likely to sit back, absorb pressure & look to hit on the counter themselves. The Red Devils must switch up their attacking techniques to force West Ham into opening up before they can create definitive chances. The best left-back in England, Luke Shaw, is key.
Not only will he have to be defensively brilliant against the tricky Jarrod Bowen – who can run rings around any defender – but Shaw needs to continue making those bombastic runs down the left. He won’t be expected to score again, but the Englishman needs to keep pouring in accurate crosses for his teammates to pounce.
Similarly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka needs to unleash his defensive beast into keeping the creative Pablo Fornals quiet but also add an extra body going forward, most importantly needing consistency with his crosses. OGS’s side might’ve kept 3 consecutive clean sheets in as many PL games, but cannot get cocky knowing their tendency to concede cheap goals.
Along with the terrorizing wingers, West Ham has some unpredictable attackers that can take the fight to them. Manuel Lanzini’s long-range shooting ability along with his incredible vision to cut out splitting passes are a nightmare, while the hard-working Michael Antonio doesn’t need many chances to score.
This could be a frustrating one for OGS’s side, especially if David Moyes makes his side park the bus & hit them on the break. Man United have to be defensively solid – especially against counter-attacks and set-pieces – as well as relentless with their attacking moves to grind out a much-needed win that can solidify their top-2 hopes.
This probably won’t be as open-ended as last week’s Manchester Derby, but I think Man United will be able to grind out a result against this stubborn West Ham side. I’ll go for a 2-1 win for the Red Devils.