West Ham v Manchester United, Saturday 29th September, 12:30
Mourinho will expect a response from his charges
Manchester United made nine changes to the starting XI from the team that drew with Wolves as they went down on penalties hosting Derby.
In fact, with David De Gea, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia all to come back in, this will be an entirely different rearguard and Jose Mourinho will demand a response as he seeks to stop the rot.
The Portuguese coach will want to ensure his players look after the ball carefully with strict instructions against cheap fouls or expressive passages of play.
That might not bring out the absolute best in Paul Pogba in particular, while the travelling support might hope for more than just rugged discipline given the talent available, though it’s a tried and tested method of success.
Since March 2017, the Reds have seen fewer than three goals in 12 of 17 competitive matches that followed a defeat via normal time, extra-time or penalties. Six finished 2-0 while three finished 1-0, meaning Man Utd & Under 2.5 Goals has landed in 53% of these games.
West Ham improvement not all it seems
While West Ham’s recovery might not be entirely built on sand, they shouldn’t get too carried away by their most recent results either.
They beat an Everton side that have produced just one victory from six matches, shipping nearly two goals per game on average, while Chelsea were far below their best as they drew at the weekend.
The Blues scored at least twice in each of their opening four matches, but they’ve only managed the solitary strike in their last two, against Greek outfit PAOK, with the Hammers benefiting from their visitors’ European schedule.
Lukaku frustrating but eventually effective
Romelu Lukaku made a fantastic start to September with six goals across four games for club and country, but he’s failed to net in his last three matches as he appears to have gone off the boil slightly.
He gets far more chances in the national team shirt with such creativity in behind, but he has to be more clinical with Jose Mourinho’s tactics less expansive than those of Roberto Martinez.
Indeed, he wasted a couple of one-on-ones versus Derby as well as a good headed opportunity inside the six yard box, but despite all this he remains United’s focal point up front.
Anthony Martial was one of the few United players to emerge with much credit following their Carabao Cup exit against Derby, but he’s still on the path back into Mourinho’s good books and is unlikely to be afforded an opportunity even with Alexis Sanchez ineffective at the moment.
With that in mind, Lukaku remains the most likely source of goals and shouldn’t be ignored given his record against the Hammers.
The Belgian international has 11 goals in 13 encounters throughout his career, while excluding the 2012/13 season where he was on loan with West Brom, he has 11 in as many games.
He found the net in 10 of these as he rarely nets braces at club level, and so though he may miss a couple en route, should still walk away with an important strike under his belt.
*all odds are subject to change