The FourFourTwo Preview: West Ham vs Man United
The Darren Fletcher derby. What do you mean he joined West Brom?!
WEST HAM FORM
- Liverpool 2-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Bristol City 0-2 West Ham (FAC)
- West Ham 3-0 Hull (Prem)
- West Ham p2-2 Everton (FAC)
- Swansea 1-1 West Ham (Prem)
MAN UNITED FORM
- Man Utd 3-0 Cambridge (FAC)
- Man Utd 3-1 Leicester (Prem)
- Cambridge 0-0 Man Utd (FAC)
- QPR 0-2 Man Utd (Prem)
- Man Utd 0-1 So’ton (Prem)
A lot was made of both Wayne Rooney and Adrian after this fixture last season. Sure, said most observers, the Manchester United forward’s halfway line chip was exquisite, but the West Ham keeper didn’t exactly cover himself in glory with a hop, skip and lame fall backwards, the ball sailing almost apologetically into the net.
The former Real Betis stopper hadn’t been the Hammers’ No.1 for long – only recently having replaced Jussi Jaaskelainen between the sticks – but Adrian has excelled since.
He may not get the attention of the Premier League’s undisputed top three Thibaut Courtois, Hugo Lloris and David de Gea, but the Andalusian’s consistency has been a vital cog in the Irons’ excellent home form. That short dismissal feels out of place now.
Seven wins from 12 matches at the Boleyn Ground this season – including victories against Manchester City and Liverpool – is an impressive return. The £71,000 FIFA fine for fielding the ineligible Diafra Sakho in the FA Cup now received, the Senegalese international should return for the Hammers after missing the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool last weekend. Worries over whether they will remain in the cup will wait another week.
Three points would come at a good time for Sam Allardyce’s men, who have won only once in their last six league games. Even in that 3-0 victory, they were lucky to have nil at half-time against Hull.
Stewart Downing has lost some of the zip that he’d found in central areas earlier in the season, while in-game injuries at centre-back have made life difficult for Big Sam to change the game with his substitutes.
That said, with the ever-impressive Alex Song at the base of the midfield - and if Sakho can make up for the loss of Andy Carroll - a result is by no means beyond them.
Though that Red Devils rearguard gets a good share of criticism, there are signs Louis van Gaal’s back three is starting to gel. Marcos Rojo, fresh from his first United goal midweek against Cambridge in the FA Cup, looks assured on the left of the three with Phil Jones an increasingly confident performer.
Question marks may still remain over Rooney’s continued deployment in defensive midfield – not least from the player himself, who it’s known doesn’t exactly enjoy playing there – but Daley Blind has quietly excelled since Michael Carrick’s latest injury.
You would expect United (Manchester, that is, sorry Hammers fans) to shade it, but it should be a good battle.
Cheikhou Kouyate, Winston Reid, James Collins, Andy Carroll, Carl Jenkinson and James Tomkins are all likely to miss out with various injury concerns, though the latter two are possibles to make the squad.
The Red Devils’ physio room, once so plentifully occupied, now has only Carrick sat in it, thumb-twiddling. Ashley Young is short on matches, but is back in training.
Key battle: Alex Song vs Angel Di Maria
Each side’s best player, this should be a fine contest assuming the Argentine plays centrally, as he’s tended to do in recent league games. The Cameroonian midfielder has provided real stability for West Ham this season and afforded Mark Noble a more attacking role in the process, and must do so again. Yet Di Maria has contributed only one league goal and assist since mid-November, a run of form that must start to change if he is to justify the British transfer record paid for him. Excellent to begin with, he’s faded since.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- United 2-1 W Ham (PL, Sep 14)
- W Ham 0-2 United (PL, Mar 14)
- United 3-1 W Ham (PL, Dec 13)
- W Ham 2-2 United (PL, Apr 13)
- United 1-0 W Ham (FAC, Jan 13)
Two of the Prem’s bigger personalities, there should be touchline fireworks to go with those on the pitch. Big Sam might not want to sit too close to Carlton Cole after the hulking striker screamed “you’re f***ing wrecking my career” when his proposed move to West Brom fell through on Monday. Though Allardyce sympathises, it could get fiery. Van Gaal’s big mouth, meanwhile, keeps getting him in trouble with the FA, who have charged him with saying referee Chris Foy “was against” United in the 0-0 cup draw with Cambridge.
Facts and figures
- Rooney has scored 10 goals in his last 9 Premier League games against West Ham.
- The Hammers have scored more goals (10) than any other team in the Premier League in the 15 minutes just after half-time.
- Robin van Persie has scored in each of his last 5 Premier League games against West Ham, netting a total of 6 goals in that run.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A right old Cockney ding-dong. 1-1.