Wayne Rooney scores a penalty against West Ham in 2010
Manchester United and West Ham meet for the 123rd time in their history at Old Trafford on Wednesday. United last played West Ham at home two seasons ago, when United won 3-0 and the last time the two sides met was in the 4-2 victory at Upton Park, when Wayne Rooney was subsequently banned for swearing into a TV camera. West Ham are currently 8th in the league and are doing far better than the other two promoted teams, Reading and Southampton, so far this season. Here we look at team news and a potential United lineup.
As always, we welcome comments from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
David from the Blowing Bubbles Fanzine has kindly answered a few questions for us below:
How has the season been so far for West Ham?
I’ve been really pleased with our start to the season. Compared to the other sides we were promoted with (Reading and Southampton), it has been said we’ve had an “easier start” but in my mind there aren’t any easy games in the Premier League and if you’re not good enough, you get beat and you go down, simple as. So to be in eighth position after 10 games with 15 points, I’m delighted – particularly with the wins against Fulham, QPR and Southampton.
Defeats away at Swansea and Wigan are my only disappointments but given both have kicked on after beating us, perhaps I undermined them. I am also a bit concerned about the run of games we between now and Christmas. We’ve got yourselves then Stoke, Spurs, Chelsea, and Liverpool before we take on an in-form West Brom side, Everton and Arsenal. I am not expecting to pick up many points from the away games but after our performance against Man City, I am hopeful we will pick up points at home to Stoke, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton but they are all tricky games.
What’s your target this season?
At the start of the season, my target was just to survive and then kick on next season. That remains the case despite our positive start to the season because I think with our tricky games coming up, we will drop down in the table and stay around the 14th/15th position for the rest of the season. I do hope, however, if we get through this “winter of discontent” with some good results and more points than anyone is expecting that Big Sam urges our lads to kick on and secure a top half position.
Who has been your best performer so far this season?
For me it has to be Mark Noble. In a time where English footballers are criticised and seen as in a bad light by most of the public, West Ham’s longest serving player is a model professional. Mark Noble defines loyalty. The Canning Town born player has supported the club since he was a young boy and is now seen as the heartbeat of the club. When the club was relegated a lot of class players jumped ship but Noble stayed, rolled up his sleeves and played his best ever football to help get the club promoted.
Football fans from other clubs tend to see Noble as just a hardworking, honest humble and he is so often under rated. As well as being a grafter he adds quality to the side and certainly has the ability on the ball, his passing this season speaks for itself. West Ham’s Hammer of the Year is an expert at recycling possession. He uses the ball in a similar way to Liverpool’s Joe Allen. Noble may not create many clear cut chances but he won’t give the ball away either.
In my opinion Noble has all the characteristics to be an England player and he should have been put into Roy’s latest squad. However if he can continue to put in superb performances for the Hammers then surely it’s a case of when and not if he gets a call-up.
Sam Allardyce doesn’t have many admirers, what’s the take on him amongst Hammers fans? Is he a proper West Ham man?
Firstly, he is not a proper West Ham man. His style of football is not what many of the West Ham faithful would consider the right way to play but what he has given us is a resilience, determination and solidness that we never had under Zola or Grant. I think our performance against Man City proved this because under previous regimes we would have lost that game and Big Sam seems to be winning more fans over every week. There are still many who aren’t happy with the manager but while he is doing well, they are happy to keep quiet but if we have many more performances like we did at Swansea away, he might start losing the fans again.
What do your fans make of Kevin Nolan?
I think at first the vast majority of fans didn’t like Nolan and I often overheard fans talking amongst themselves about what he actually brings to the team with many questioning his work-rate and effort but it didn’t take long for Nolan to prove his worth to the team and he was a key player in our push for promotion last season. This season there aren’t as many critics of Nolan in the stands and I think people are starting to get why he was such a hit at Bolton and Newcastle and what a special player he is.
He is a match winner – something we needed after Parker left us for Spurs – and always seems to be in the right place and the right time to score valuable goals. I’ve not sat down and working out how many points we notched up thanks to a goal by Nolan but I think we’d all be shocked if we did the math.
You’ve also got Andy Carroll at The Boleyn these days … what’s the situation with him? Will he go back to Liverpool in January? Is he really on £100K pw?
Andy Carroll has been brilliant for us. He has been playing up top by himself but at times I feel like he is worth three players. Man City really seemed to struggle playing against the other weekend and I hope he can stay fit and keep up his current level of performances for the rest of the season.
There is a lot of talk that Carroll’s arrival meant we are now truly a “long ball” team but I think we’ve played fewer “long balls” since his arrival than when we had Cole up front. With Cole up front, we always tried to play through the middle more because Carlton isn’t as good as winning and keeping the ball as Carroll but as the game enters the second half, we start to go long.
With Carroll in our side, we actually have played less “long balls” than Real Madrid and only a few more than Barcelona. I agree we have probably played more direct balls but I think we can agree that a direct 20-year ball is far more affective and productive than a 30-yard hoof behind the opposition’s left back?
I’ve no idea if he will go back to Liverpool in January.
I keep reading conflicting reports quoting the Liverpool gaffer. One minute he wants him back and the next he doesn’t. If he does, we will be sad to see him go but he is a top striker who needs to be playing for a club in a better position to challenge for Europe. As for the reports of him earning £100k a week, if he is scoring goals, creating chances and causing problems and we can afford to pay it, who cares how much he is getting paid?
You have Sullivan, Gold and Brady running West Ham these days. What do West Ham fans think of them?
I like them. After our previous owners, they have steadied the ship, invested their own money and Sullivan and Gold are West Ham fans. I know they are ultimately businessmen and will want a return on their investment but things have looked a bit rosier since their arrival and I hope things work out for us and them. I also really like the fact Mr Gold replies to so many tweets.
What is your greatest memory of a West Ham victory over Manchester United?
My greatest memory has to be our trip to Old Trafford in 2007 when Carlos Tevez’s goal sealed our safety in the Premier League. That day will never be forgotten. To win at Old Trafford isn’t an easy task at the best of times, so for Tevez to score a well composed goal at such a vital time was brilliant.
There have been a few other notable moments in our recent history against you. Our league cup win during the 10/11 season is an obvious highlight, taking advantage of your weaknesses to slot four goals in at Upton Park.
But the main goal that I remember us scoring at Old Trafford was by none other than Paolo Di Canio. Di Canio led the world to discover a new dance move, affectionately known as “the Barthez”, which basically involves waving one arm in the air. Yes, Di Canio’s very onside run led to him coolly passing the ball past a panicking Fabien Barthez to seal an F.A. Cup victory in January 2001.
What have you made of Manchester United so far this season?
The red half of Manchester may have seemingly spent the summer trying to force the corks back into those Champagne bottles after Manchester City’s last gasp, title winning antics but the disappointment doesn’t seem to have affected your start to this season. Although there certainly looked as though there may have been cause for concern with an opening day defeat away at Everton, it seems to have been a blip as you went on to win eight of your next ten league games with just two reverses, the other being a defeat to Tottenham.
I think your fans demand the title, they expect to win trophies and The Premiership and The Champions League are the ones that count financially. Having already exited the League Cup, Fergie may choose to play a strong team for the FA Cup, but I doubt it. You have the players with the talent and the technical ability to beat whatever team is put in front of you on any given day, but there have been some embarrassing slip ups in recent seasons and controversy seems never seems too far away.
If you could take one player from Manchester United’s squad, who would it be?
Van Persie is the stand out player so far this season but Rooney is starting to find some form and Hernandez has looked razor sharp in front of goal. I’d take any of them! Ryan Giggs also continues to defy time and joint aches by putting in top class performances whenever called upon. He is still a danger in this his twenty second year with the club.
Manchester United lineup
David De Gea has recovered following injury and should start the game against West Ham. Rafael has made them most appearances for United so far this season and has made the right back spot his own, however Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will be eager to get back into the fold and Sir Alex may look to rest Rafael ahead of the away tie at Reading on Saturday. Anderson impressed coming on as a substitue and is expected to start alongside Michael Carrick, following comments about his performance against Queens Park Rangers in the 3-1 victory at the weekend. Antonio Valencia has picked up a hip injury and could make the bench for the league leaders. Below is our side to face West Ham:
Wayne Rooney has only scored two goals this season, against Stoke City back in October, so he will desperate to improve his tally. Paul Scholes will miss the match through suspension. If Hernandez does start, it will probably be at the expense of Robin van Persie, who has made an appearance in every Premier League game so far this season, and Ferguson could opted to rest the mercurial Dutchman in place of the free scoring Mexican.
What are your thoughts? Please leave you proposed team in the comments box below.
West Ham have history against United. Back in 1992 and 1995, Ludek Miklosko put in two heroic performances to halter United’s title bid. United lost 1-0 in 1992 (and then lost to Liverpool 2-0 in the next fixture to hand Leeds the title) and drew 1-1 in 1995, with Andy Cole missing a hatfull of chances that would have given United the championship. A lot has passed since those fixtures, relegations, champions leagues and a certain Argentinian that is loved and loathed in equal measures by supporters of both clubs.
West Ham are without Mark Noble, who is suspended after accumulating five yellow cards. Jack Collison, injured knee, and forward Ricardo Vaz Te, injured shoulder, are also ruled out. Yossi Benayoun is not available as he still has a thigh problem, whilst left-back George McCartney is a doubt after suffering an ankle injury against Tottenham. West Ham last won at Old Trafford in 2007, when Carlos Tevez netted the winner on the last day of the season. United were already Champions but the East Londoners needed a victory to stay up. Since then United have scored 12 goals against West Ham at Old Trafford, whilst the hammer have notched up a single goal in the 2008 fixture. Dean Aston scored a superb overhead kick in the 4-1 United win.
West Ham are up to eighth in the league but have three tough fixtures ahead. Away at United and then home to Chelsea followed by Liverpool. Away from home, West Ham have beaten bottom club QPR but picked up an impressive 1-0 victory away at Newcastle a few Sundays ago – Kevin Nolan the scoring the only goal of the game. The Hammers will no doubt look to Nolan to get on the end of set pieces and corners and, as we know, Kevin Nolan has scored against United when Bolton Wanderers came to Old Trafford and won 2-1 back in 2001. Having said that, West Ham have every right to fear Manchester United’s potential front two. van Persie has scored four goals in his last four Premier League starts (against West Ham), whilst Wayne Rooney has scored seven goals in his last four league appearances against the Hammers.