Robin van Persie has been Manchester United’s match winner & saviour against West Ham
Manchester United travel to West Ham on Wednesday evening hoping to maintain the fifteen point gap over Manchester City at the top of the table. Upton Park has been the scene of two disappointing results that had a catastrophic impact on United’s title surge. Back in 1991/92, United lost out to Leeds United in the title race – having been beaten by West Ham away, after an inspired performance from Czech goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko.
Fast forward three years, Miklosko put in another superb display, thwarting Andy Cole on numerous occasions, as United could only draw the match 1-1. Brian McClair’s goal wasn’t enough and Blackburn Rovers took the title. Since then, United have had a pretty good record against the Hammers, but lost two away games back to back in 2006/07 and 2007//08. United went on to win the title in both seasons. Here we discuss the match preview and welcome comments from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
As always, we have a great view from the opposition with Alex Shilling of The Blowing Bubbles Fanzine. You can follow Alex on Twitter here @alexshilling and the Blowing Bubbles Fanzine here @bl0wingbubbles:
How would you sum up your season?
I really can’t complain at all, we’re sitting 12th in the league on 38 points- realistically, three points away from survival with 6 games to go and for a newly promoted team, that’s a great season. Allardyce made some very shrewd purchases in the summer in the likes of Diame and Jaaskelainen and they’ve been the driving force behind the solid season we’ve had. A top ten finish is still possible and the only complaint I can have in terms of results is that we never really gave either of the cups a go, which is a shame. Broadly speaking, very happy.
Any advice for your manager for next term?
I’ve got huge respect for Sam for what he’s done for us; after the madness of the last few years, what this club needs is stability and he’s done much to give us that. His transfer purchases have almost entirely been on the money as well and he’s given us defensive organisation and strength that I can’t ever remember us having since I’ve been watching West Ham.
The one piece of advice I’d give him is just to be a bit more adventurous and don’t be afraid to shake things up if things aren’t going our way.
We did the job and got promoted last season but could have comfortably gone up automatically if he’d changed the 4-5-1 system earlier when it became clear that teams knew how to stop it and we were dropping points at home to rubbish like Doncaster and Watford. It’s been the same story this season at times, we have three very talented strikers in the squad in Carlton Cole, Mobido Maiga and Marouane Chamakh but Allardyce’s obsession with Andy Carroll has meant that we haven’t got close to achieving the squad’s full potential. A Cole and Carroll strike partnership, for example, would be a mouthwatering concept for me.
Sam’s done the job for us this season and we’re on the brink of safety, next season I’d just like him to be a bit more courageous when it comes to trying new tactics out- and not to always stick to his comfort blanket of 4-5-1!
West Ham look safe from relegation. Any doubts lingering though?
We need one more win (or three draws) to guarantee our safety so we’ll be absolutely fine and it’s very satisfying to be able to say that as a West Ham fan with 6 games to go and not to be obsessively updating the BBC Predictor tool, trying to work out every possible permutation of our results and the results of the teams around us in relegation trouble. I just want us to get that win now to seal it!
Andy Carroll has hit some form of late. What are your thoughts on him?
Andy Carroll is, I’d say, the centre forward we have needed for seasons. Carlton Cole has been doing his job for the last few seasons and has performed magnificently, but lacks Carroll’s movement or aerial presence. Obviously there’s a lot of speculation flying round at the moment as to where he’s going to be playing next season and I’d love it if we could land him, however much it costs.
Allardyce claims we can’t sign him because of the new financial fair play restrictions, but I think he’s just playing transfer politics; he’s known about the new regulations since February and he’s never brought it up before. On his day, I think Carroll is the best out-and-out centre forward in the country and even if we have to pay all of the £17m that Liverpool want for him, we should just find it from somewhere and go for it, because I think Carroll would more than pay for himself, he’s shown with 5 goals in his last 7 games exactly what he’s capable of.
However, for me, there’d be no point in signing the bloke unless Allardyce was prepared to rethink how he uses him. Whilst it’s true that Carroll’s struggled with injuries this season, he’s also struggled with the role that he’s been forced to play. He is at his best when playing off a pacy striker, as he was with Danny Welbeck in the Euros last summer and to an extent, with Luis Suarez at Liverpool. Allardyce hasn’t given Carroll the opportunity to do that at West Ham and he really should next season if we sign him, as that’s the way to get the best out of him.
United have faced West Ham three times already this season in very close fought matches. Fourth time lucky on Wednesday night? What do you think the score will be and how will you line up? Who has been your best player and worst player?
Not to make excuses or anything (there’s a thought) but we’ve got almost our entire back four out of action for this game. George McCartney put himself out for the season in his comeback game against Chelsea last month, having been injured since December with a cruciate injury, and our two centre halves James Tomkins and Winston Reid are almost certain to miss out too, meaning that our useless loanee Emmannuel Pogatetez, who I’d say has been comfortably our worst player since signing in January, will likely be starting the game. Given that, I really can’t see us taking three points, I think our makeshift back four will be torn apart by the attacking talent you’ve got in your team.
Mark Noble has a fighting chance of making a comeback, having been out since February, I’d imagine Allardyce will go with the same team that started the Southampton game on Saturday. 4-5-1, Carroll on his own up top, Jarvis and Vaz Te on the wings.
As for our best player, Mohammed Diame has been our talisman this season and has barely put a foot wrong all season- a colossus. Strength, speed, stamina and a real eye for goal. His performance against Chelsea earlier in the season which inspired us to our first win over them in ten years was his highlight but he’s been superb all season and if we can get him to sign a new deal in the summer and take that bloody release clause removed, it’ll be a real achievement as he’s essential to our future progress.
As regards the result, a performance of huge desire and energy could see us snatch a draw. Why not, I’ll go for 1-1! Pogatetz will probably score our goal now I’ve slagged him off, Van Persie to get yours.
What have you made of United and if you could take one player, who would it be and why?
You’ve had a solid season and deserve to win the league but I’m not going to lie- I’d love it if we could hold off your victory parade for another couple of weeks by taking something off of you on Wednesday. This is, I’d say, the strongest Man United team I can remember seeing, I can’t see any obvious weak links in your side. It’s been a typical Man U season as far as I can see in that you’ve won virtually all the games you’ve been expected to win and haven’t made any balls-ups of any real consequence in the league. As for players I’d take, I’m going to be tediously obvious and take Van Persie. I mentioned earlier how the best way to get Andy Carroll playing to his potential is to pair him up front with a pacy forward, RVP would fit the bill for me.
Who is your favourite West Ham player of all time?
There’s a question! Not to be presumptious, but if I were you, I’d be expecting a West Ham fan to wax lyrical about Moore, Peters, Hurst, the Boys of ’86 (the closest we’ve ever come to winning the top flight, finishing 3rd in 1985/1986), Cross, Di Canio, etc. But I made my Boleyn Ground debut in September 2003 so all that is a bit before my time. Opinion is divided amongst Hammers about the big man, but I’m a huge Carlton Cole fan. I am typing this while wearing a claret t shirt emblazoned with bright blue letters bearing the legend ‘Sex Drugs And Carlton Cole.’
He’s not the most talented striker to ever wear put on a West Ham shirt but you’ll struggle to find one who’s cared more and put more effort in. Not only staying with us after relegation in 2011 and turning down offers from the Premier League and abroad, but also taking a 50% wage cut in order to play in the Championship is serious dedication to the cause and this word is bandied around too much amongst football fans.. but I genuinely LOVE Carlton Cole, and I’d say he’s my favourite player ever.
Tell us a fact about the 65 Cup Winner’s Cup team?
Alan Sealey’s two goals in our 2-0 win in the final were his first and second in the competition all season. Bobby Moore’s middle name was Chelsea as well if you’re interested!
What do you remember about the 92 and 95 games against United your way!?
I’m only 21, so I would have likely been asleep in my cot in ’92 while Kenny Brown was turning Fergie’s boat race bright red, and pretty sure I was playing with my Thomas The Tank Engine trains while Ludo Miklosko was single-handedly denying you boys the 1995 Premier League title! The first West Ham-Man United game I remember was the 6-0 defeat in the FA Cup in 2003.
A £20 bet on United to win 2-1 wins you £150
A £20 bet on Shinji Kagawa to score the first goal wins you £180
A £20 bet on Michael Carrick to score the first goal and United win 2-1 wins you £1620
Rio Ferdinand could be rested after playing ninety minutes against Stoke City on Sunday, with Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling waiting in the wings. Rafael, who missed the game on Sunday, will be hoping for a recall despite Phil Jones’ excellent performance at right back. Ashley Young and Paul Scholes are out injured and Darren Fletcher remains a long term absentee. Club captain Nemanja Vidic, who will be vital for the match, is expected to face a late fitness test on a calf problem.
West Ham United
It is being reported that Joe Cole is out with a hamstring injury and George McCartney has a knee problem. Emanuel Pogatetz could replace McCarthy, however James Tompkins is to face a late fitness test and could be included within the starting line up. Mark Noble is out with a shoulder injury and New Zealander Winston Reid is struggling for fitness after picking up a thigh injury.
Potential Manchester United line up
Phil Jones was outstanding against Stoke City on Sunday afternoon and would expect to keep his place ahead of Rafael. Kagawa’s elegant turn of pace and gliding across the turf is something most reds want to see more often. The Japanese star’s best position is off the front man as a number ten, however – he can do a job wide but will no doubt drift in off the flank allowing Patrice Evra the opportunity to overlap. Nani, who hasn’t featured since the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea, could be brought in to freshen up the flanks, but I’d opt for Kagawa. Danny Welbeck has been doing a job all season from the right or left of midfield and could replace Valencia having been on the bench against Stoke City.
Nemanja Vidic’s inclusion is vital against the in form Andy Carroll, who has scored in his last two starts. Vidic is exceptional in the air and wins header and header, which will no doubt be West Ham’s main weapon. Carrick will do what he has been doing all season and will sweep in front of the back four, intercepting the ball when defending and initiating attacks. Cleverley, who like Welbeck, was also rested the weekend, should be brought back into assist Carrick in the centre of the park. Robin van Persie, who scored that late winner in January, will surely be the focal point of the attack. Lastly, Rooney – who was embroiled in controversy in 2010/11 when he swore in the direction of a Sky Sports camera – should be reinstated further up the pitch, just off the Dutchman.
How would you lineup against West Ham?
Conclusion & prediction
West Ham have a great knack of ruining the Manchester United party. We’ve touched upon the dropped points in 1992 and 1995, however – Di Canio’s cool finish in 2001, slotting home with Fabian Barthez’ – ironically being the one with his right arm in the air this time – attempted mind games falling flat as United’s ‘arrogance’ at pulling out of the FA Cup the season before (due to the trip to Brazil) was lapped up by the rest of the nation. Six years later, West Ham needed to win to beat the drop and Carlos Tevez stepped up with the goods on the final day of the season, with United already champions. Tomorrow will prove no different from West Ham’s ambitions and will look to pick up all three points as be safe from relegation, as Alex mentioned in the view from opposition section.
West Ham last lost at home to a stunning Gareth Bale winner in the last minute of the 3-2 defeat. The East Londoners have won seven, drawn four and lost four (to Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton) at home this term. The Hammers have held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw and beaten Chelsea 3-1. The side have no problem scoring goals at home and have hit 26 goals in 15 games, which is more than Fulham, Southampton and West Brom.
Away from home, they’ve had trouble all season, netting a paltry ten goals, the worst away record excusing relegation threaten Stoke City, who have only scored nine. Some clubs (like Tottenham) flourish away from home in terms of goal scoring, however – it is clear that West Ham are more effective at the The Boleyn Ground. West Ham have scored in every home game so far this season, excluding the 0-0 draw with Manchester City, whereas United have failed to score in two away games this season – against Everton on the opening day and the 1-0 defeat to Norwich City in November.
In February, we compiled a list of United’s remaining fixtures, and had a 1-1 draw down. United looked extremely dominant against Stoke City on Sunday and will be hoping to carry that into the fixture against West Ham after the disappointing result in the Manchester derby.
Prediction: West Ham United 1-2 Manchester United