Monday 2nd January 2017 – 17.15 – Sky Sports 1 HD

Just 2 days after their previous games, both West Ham and Man Utd are back in action in the late afternoon game. Following Palace’s defeat to Arsenal yesterday, Sam Allardyce said the man who set the Premier League schedule should get sacked for lining up 2 games in 3 days, however for the fan’s it’s a great time in the footballing calendar with matches coming thick and fast.

West Ham have been in good form of late, winning 3 consecutive league games in a row before Saturday’s defeat against Leicester. Just a few weeks back West Ham’s position in the league was looking precarious, but that run of 3 wins means West Ham have moved their way up the league to 12th place, 8 points above the relegation zone.

As part of that run, West Ham won consecutive Premier League games at the London Stadium for the first time since moving to their new ground. This could yet be a sign that their starting to settle in their new home. With that said, all 4 of West Ham’s league wins at home have been by a 1-0 score line. In fact they have only scored more than 1 goal at home in the league on one occasion this season which could be a problem when coming up against an in form United side.

But West Ham do have a good record against Man Utd of late and are unbeaten in their last 4 Premier League meetings picking up 1 win and drawing 3. West Ham have never gone 5 games unbeaten against Man Utd in their English league history.

You’d expect West Ham’s main threat to come through the spectacularly talented midfielder Dimitri Payet. Payet has created 70 chances for West Ham in the league this season averaging 4.1 per game a truly remarkable stat.

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For West Ham, Captain Mark Noble will be assessed after he took a blow to his knee against Leicester and with very little time between games manager Slaven Bilic might decide not to risk him. Alvaro Arbeloa, Arthur Masuaku, Diafra Sakho and Gokhan Tore remain out.

Their opponents Manchester United are in great form of late, 2nd in the form books only to Chelsea having won their last 5 league games and are unbeaten in 11.

Jose Mourinho has now found the midfield formula that works having stuttered earlier on in the season. He’s managed to get a midfield solution to allow Pogba to be more influential in the games and that is starting to reap rewards. Pogba has been directly involved in 4 goals in his last 4 Premier League appearances, with 2 goals and 2 assists, one goal of which grabbed the 3 points on Saturdays win over Middlesbrough.

Antony Martial also had his best performance for United this season against Middlesbrough grabbing a goal himself. He will be keen to start against West Ham knowing he’s scored 5 goals in his last 4 appearances against West Ham in all competitions.

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A big problem Man United had last season was their away record which hampered their target of a top 4 finish, managing just 7 away wins all season. This season however they have already won 5 away matches in the league another sign that Jose Mourinho is finally starting to get the best out of this talented group of players.

Mourinho may decide to rest a few players given the busy schedule, however one man you wouldn’t want to rest at the minute is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He’s already scored 3 goals against West Ham this season, grabbing 1 in the Premier League and 2 goals in the EFL cup encounter. Aside from that he has been a marvel since joining Utd, any fears he was too old to cut it in the Premier League has been laid to rest having scored 12 in 18 league appearances this season. He scored a mammoth 50 goals in 2016, just 1 behind Lionel Messi and in fairness he should have drawn level with Messi as his goal on the weekend was ridiculously ruled out.

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Jose Mourinho said “It’s difficult for us and difficult for West Ham. We’ve both played at the same time, we’ve both had difficult matches and couldn’t rest players.”

“The intensity of the game was very high for them, for sure, against Leicester, and for us the same. And now we have 48 hours to play, so it’s difficult for all of us.”

He also went on to confirm defender Eric Bailly is now on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations where he could miss the next month. Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney have a chance of being involved after missing the New Year’s Eve win over Middlesbrough.

The disappointment for United perhaps is following 5 consecutive victories they still find themselves in 6th place. One thing they have done however is draw closer to the teams above them now only 3 points behind rivals City and Tottenham, and only 4 behind Arsenal. United will need to keep winning to apply pressure to any team that drop points.

West Ham against Man United is always a game that stokes emotions especially following the sour scenes last season with the United coach being attacked on the way to the game. I would put Man Utd as favourites, however with player fatigue and the inevitable rotating of the starting XI, you never know what can happen. It all adds to the anticipation of this game.

Other Matches:

  • Middlesbrough v Leicester City
  • Everton v Southampton
  • Manchester City v Burnley
  • Sunderland v Liverpool
  • West Bromwich Albion v Hull City

 

By Michael Thatcher

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