Wayne Rooney scores a wonder goal against West Ham at Upton Park last season
Manchester United welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford in what is the 129th meeting between the two clubs. The home side have a defensive injury crisis, with Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are all out injury whilst youngster Tyler Blackett is suspended following his dismissal last Sunday in the 5-3 defeat away ay Leicester City.
Sam Allardyce has said he fears a backlash following United’s defeat last Sunday, but surely his side will relish a physical battle with a United defensive lineup that could potentially feature youngsters Tom Thorpe or Paddy McNair.
1) What have you made of West Ham’s start to the season so far? Happy with progress?
I’ve been impressed. I thought we made some very good signings over the summer but I was worried how they would fit into our starting XI. Andy Carrol’s injury, although a massive blow, has actually forced Allardyce to setting up our team differently, given some of the new signings chance to show their worth and I’ve been very impressed with some of the football we’ve played. Before the Liverpool game last weekend, I was worried we hadn’t picked up enough points from our opening games but victory over Liverpool has set us up nicely. My only concern now is we continue to play better football but when Nolan and Carroll return, we’ll go back to Allardyce’s preferred tactics.
2) Sam Allardyce has come under a lot of criticism for his style of play. What do you make of it?
This is a question I’m always asked by friends, family, and strangers I meet on the Tube. Do I like the football I’ve seen over the past few seasons (excluding this season)? No. Do I think it’s been alienating fans and leading to supporters falling out of love of West Ham? Yes. But the bottom line is Allardyce was brought in initially to get us promoted out of the Championship, he did that. He was then tasked with ensuring we stayed in the Premier League in our first season back, he did that. He was then asked to keep us up in our second season, he did that. Allardyce has hit his targets so far but now he has been given the target of staying up but playing more attractive football. He has been given the funds, he has spent a lot of players and the early signs are encouraging. My only concern is if we hit a bad patch, he’ll refer to his usually style of play and we’ll have millions and millions of pounds-worth of talent being wasted on the bench.
3) Is he the right man to lead you forward and what would you consider a successful season?
Tough question. At this moment, so long as he keeps us up and we continue play better football with more passion than we saw at times last season, then he is probably the best man to lead us into the Olympic Stadium. There have been a number of times I’ve called for him to go but the owners have stuck by him and I just hope he continues to repay this faith. A successful season would be a top 10 finish and a FA cup run.
4) What has happened to Ravel Morrison and will he ever reach the heights his talent promised?
I don’t think he will. It’s unfortunate but I think his ego will prevent him from reaching the heights we know he is capable of. When I’ve seen him play and he is playing well, his movement and vision is up there with the best youngsters in the league but he just doesn’t have the right attitude and is not consistent enough.
5) What a goal from Enner Valencia at Hull City! What have you made of him and your transfer dealings?
They’ve all shown promising signs. When I look at the players we’ve signed, I am left wondering how many of them were players Sam Allardyce wanted. It struck me that the owners purchased the players try wanted to encourage Allardyce to play the way they wanted him to. Having said that, Cresswell is impressed considering it’s his first season in the Premier League, Alex Song was a fantastic signing for us and I look forward to watching him play more for us, Valencia looks like he can and will cause problems, Sakho is scoring, Zarate has scored a belter but seems to drift in and out of games, Kouyate is a quality player and we will miss him while he recovers from the injury he sustained at the weekend, Poyet is an intelligent player who I hope gets his chance under Allardyce and Amalfitano scored against Liverpool but I fear he won’t be able to consistently produce the goods if he comes off the bench every week.
6) Did you see Leicester’s comeback against United the weekend? What were your thoughts?
It was a complete disaster for United. Di Maria, Rooney, RVP and Falcao looked sharp and like they had been playing together for ages and at 3-1, you were cruising. I loved the pace, movement and goals you scored up to that point. Then it was all about defending and unfortunately while you’ve got world class players up top, you’ve got a weakness in defence which was, and will continue to be, horribly exposed. Rojo is really the only player in that back line, I think deserves to be in a side challenging for Euorpe. Smalling and Jones aren’t at that level yet.
7) Do you think Louis van Gaal will get it right?
Yes. He has spent a lot of money but has purchased quality players who are natural talents. Players who can score goals and win games. He needs to focus on improving the defence as at the moment the defenders are all over the place. Signing a couple of world class centre backs in January is vital if you are going to finish in a European place but I think he is a manager who could bring back the glory days at United.
8) Where will United finish this season?
You’re score plenty of goals but unless you sign some defenders in January, you are going to concede a lot of goals. I’ve found it interesting how Old Trafford was a place most teams would fear and settle for a point or just write off their chances of getting anything but now it’s a place teams attack. I think you’ll struggle to break into the top four because, even if Liverpool flop, there are other teams who are far more consistent and there could be a shock come the end of the season.
9) What is your greatest memory of playing Manchester United?
It’s got to be the FA Cup game in 2001 when Di Canio scored against a protesting Barthez. What was he thinking?
10) What is 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