Manchester United vs. West Ham, Saturday 13th April, 17:30
On paper, form appears to have deserted us at precisely the wrong moment in the season after four defeats from five games. However, these came in tough away fixtures against Arsenal and Wolves (twice), as well as a home encounter with Barcelona, while the last three defeats were each by just the single strike as we’ve at least been competitive.
It could be worse. West Ham are completely out of sought as they’ve lost seven of their last 12 across all competitions, though it’s their record on the road that leaves us particularly confident ahead of this clash. The Hammers have lost seven of eight winless trips, while in the league alone it’s six from seven as they failed to score in each defeat.
There’s an air of Arsene Wenger about Manuel Pellegrini in that the Chilean stubbornly refuses to deviate from his chosen path. Despite wanting to implement free-flowing champagne football, it’s highly questionable whether he has the required players to set out in such a manner.
He did so when he was at City, but Declan Rice isn’t Yaya Toure and Mark Noble isn’t David Silva, and whereas other teams are willing (at least occasionally) to punt the ball up to a target man or wide players on the counter against the better sides, Pellegrini always wants his football played along the deck.
If he’s going to enjoy any success against us this weekend, his team are going to need to find the wide men early to take advantage of one or two of our absentees in defence.
Full-backs Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are suspended, but though Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian are back in training, neither has convinced this season and both should find themselves out of the door at Old Trafford this summer.
That should mean Diego Dalot returns to the rearguard after being utilized ahead as a left wing-back against Barcelona midweek, while Marcos Rojo could line up on the other side of defence despite an underwhelming performance in a 1-1 draw for the Under 23’s versus West Brom on Friday night.
Clean sheets have been hard to come by at Old Trafford with both teams finding the net in eight of our last nine there in the league, though that could well change this weekend given West Ham have been struggling for goals.
However, it’s Anthony Martial who interests us in this clash, with the Frenchman due for a start after beginning the last two games on the bench. He has a fantastic record against the Hammers, bagging six goals and three assists in seven appearances against them in all tournaments, while Pellegrini’s side aren’t the best at defending attacks down the flanks.
*all odds are subject to change