Robin van Persie, who is injured for today’s fixture, scores in the draw against West Ham last season
Following on from Manchester United’s win in the Champions League over Olympiakos, the English Champions travel to East London to take on West Ham United at Upton Park. The home side, currently in twelfth position in the Premier League have always been a tough side for United to take on when under pressure. Two key title deciding games in 1992 and 1995, where Ludo Miklosko denied United time and time again, spring to mind – however, the stark reality is that any title chasing is over for at least another calendar year.
All red were delighted to have qualified for the quarter finals of the European Cup, however – the news that Robin van Persie is out for six weeks and the fact that the club have drawn the European Champions and arguably the best club in the world on current form highlights the monumental challenge David Moyes still has in the remaining two months of the season. With the Dutchman out, it gives a chance to Juan Mata to play through the middle off of Wayne Rooney.
Joey O’Brien and Marco Boriello are unavailable for the home side, whilst Nemanja Vidic is suspended following his dismissal against Liverpool last weekend.
We caught up with David, the Editor of Blowing Bubbles Fanzine, who kindly answered a number of questions for us on relegation, United clear out and who would get into his best West Ham Xi of all time. You can follow the fanzine on Twitter @Bl0wingBubbles
1) West Ham have had an inconsistent season – how would you describe it?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season. We started off well but the turning point was the Norwich game in November. We dominated the first half and were cruising but Jussi made a mistake at the start of the second half and we ended up losing 3-1. From there it was all downhill until Christmas. It didn’t get any easier at the start of January either with our youngsters being hammered by Forest in the FA Cup and losing 9-0 on aggregate against Citeh in the League Cup. It was just before the Chelsea game on January 29, that I really began to wonder how we were going to get the points we needed to survive. We then, of course, went on a bit of an unbeaten streak and ended February mid-table having picked up 13 points in five games. Losing to Everton and Stoke wasn’t ideal but I saw enough in those two games to believe we will be safe this season.
2) Sam Allardyce often gets criticised for his direct approach. What do you make of such criticisms?
I can understand them. I never have been a fan of his direct approach but it is effective and while we remain a Premier League club, we can look forward to a few more years of this style of football. Allardyce was quoted as saying it was only a minority who had the hump but let me tell you, even the most easy-going fans were calling for his head after the Forest/Citeh hammerings. But give him credit, he did say to judge him when the likes of Carroll and Reid returned from injury and after a fabulous February, I’m really hoping we don’t have a miserable March and get dragged back into the relegation battle.
3) You’re six points off the relegation with nine games left – any lingering doubts at all that you’ll be dragged into the fight?
There’s no lingering about it, we are still fighting for our survival. We’ve got to play you, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City in our final nine games which is not going to be easy. We have, however, got Hull and Palace at home and if we have any desires of being a Premier League club next season, we will need to get maximum points from these two games.
4) You’ve lost the last two games to Everton and Stoke City. What happened in those matches?
Everton have been our bogey side for years now. I bet Everton fans rub their hands with joy when they get ready to watch their side take on West Ham. I wasn’t expecting us to get anything from that game but we were very unlucky that one moment of class from Lukaku robbed us of a hard-fought point. As for Stoke, I think it was a combination of too many players having an off day, a few changes to the side which had done so well in February and a few decisions going against us. It happens and you’ve just got to get back on that coach, move on and start mentally preparing for your next game.
5) How confident are you that you can beat United following the turn around on Wednesday? Also, as a side note, can United win the European Cup?
I wrote last month how I felt David Moyes’ Manchester United will face further embarrassment against Sam Allardyce’s resurgent West Ham and I’ve seen nothing from the Red Devils in recent weeks which makes me believe this won’t be the case. A victory over United and I believe the Hammers will go on to have a massive influence on the title race and who qualifies for the Champions League. Regarding United’s chances of winning the European Cup, you’ve got to be kidding me? You are not good enough at the moment. Your squad needs a complete overhaul before European glory can even be considered. Any fans who believe they can win the Champions League are as bad as the Liverpool fans who still believe their side has a chance of winning the Premier League.
6) What have you made of United this season? Is David Moyes still the right man to take the club forward?
It has been interesting watching how West Ham and United have fared since both Sam Allardyce and David Moyes watched helplessly on as their sides were embarrassingly dumped out of the Capital One Cup. For a club of United’s stature to have lost on penalties after two legs against Sunderland was far more embarrassing for Moyes than West Ham’s 9-0 aggregate defeat to Manchester City.
Allardyce had already shrugged off any talk of his sacking before the second leg 3-0 defeat at the Boleyn Ground, which followed the 6-0 drubbing by Manchester City in the first leg and the 5-0 loss against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. Moyes, on the other hand, has not had to make such statements, and Manchester United’s capitulation against Liverpool further highlighted the contrast in both managers’ fortunes since their Capital One Cup defeats.
I think the contrast of fortunes boils down to the fact that Allardyce was far more concerned with West Ham’s Premier League ambitions than either cup competition. The United boss, however, appeared very keen to lift at least one trophy in his first season in charge and did not take his side’s Capital One Cup semi-final clash so lightly. The impact of the defeat to Sunderland has been, without doubt, disastrous for United.
In a campaign that has gone from bad to worse, you have dropped way out of contention for the Premier League title, as well as having been knocked out of both domestic cups by so-called lesser opposition. You also face a monumental challenge just to secure a top-four finish this season. While West Ham have been rewarded for keeping faith with manager Sam Allardyce, questions rightly continue to be asked about the future of David Moyes and whether he should pay the price for this disastrous season, and I believe the Glazer family should have acted after the defeat in Greece. I do not think Moyes is the right man to take the club forward.
7) Who, if you were Manchester United manager, would you get rid of and (realistically) bring in the summer?
There are too many players I would get rid of. Ferdinand is past it, Evans never got it, Giggs is way too old, Carrick hasn’t been at the races for years, Cleverley should never be allowed to play for United again let alone make the England squad, Fletcher has a fantastic ability to pass in any direction but forwards, and Fellaini just doesn’t suit United.
I honestly believe you need players in every position across the defence and midfield. As for players you’d need to bring in, I think you’ve already got a class player in Mata who will be like a new signing once this season is over, he gets a good pre-season in and the new season kicks off. As for other players to bring in, I honestly don’t know. It will be very interesting to see how much money Moyes gets to spend in the summer. It will be only then let you, the fans, will see how much the Glazers truly support him.
8) Who has been the best team and player you’ve seen this season?
I think Liverpool have been the stand-out side for me this season. They have got the same players, more or less, as they had last season but they’ve just clicked this season. Suarez and Sturridge have formed a deadly partnership and although I don’t think they’ve got enough to win the league, they have certainly impressed me with their style of play and the goals they’ve scored. I think Hazard and Ageuro have been the players I’ve been most impressed with this season. Their movement ensures they always seem to have so much time on the ball and their ability on the ball just creates so many chances for others. Out of two, I think Ageuro has impressed me the most because he is just unplayable at times.
9) Who has been the best and worst players for you this season?
Mark Noble has been inspirational, with the season-changing win at Cardiff his finest hour-and-a-half. After two cup humiliations in a week, stand-in captain Noble produced a tireless display to stop the rot and inspire the side to a 2-0 win, netting the second goal himself. Again recently, against a Southampton side well represented in the England squad, he produced another immense display and it made me ponder what more can he do to impress Roy Hodgson. Yes England are well stocked in midfield, but to not even take a look at Noble makes no sense. Barring serious injury to one of the players already picked, the World Cup boat looks to have sailed without Mark Noble. For whatever reason, England may not think he is good enough. But West Ham fans know he is.
Despite his recent performances and goals, Nolan has disappointed this season. He has been one of only a few senior players who hasn’t suffered a long-term injury and played through the dark days of this season but rather than stand up, fight and drag the team through games against Palace, Hull and Norwich, like all captains should, his passion was lacking and without his best buddy Carroll, was found wanting. He also got stupidly sent off in two games – both of which were completely unacceptable.
10) What would be your all time West Ham Xi?
GK – Ludek ‘Ludo’ Miklosko
LB – Julian Dicks
RB – Ray Stewart
CB – Alvin Martin
CB – Bobby Moore(c)
RM – Alan Devonshire
LM – Joe Cole
CM – Mark Noble
CM – Trevor Brooking
ST – Paolo Di Canio
ST – Tony Cottee