Manchester United will be pitted against West Ham United at the London Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to get some consistency into his team in order to press on and achieve which may seem the impossible at the end of the season, achieving a UEFA Champions League group stage place for next season.
United and the Hammers are in similar form this season, losing one match, drawing twice and winning three times in all competitions. The Hammers have done well to overcome that 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City in the opening weekend. For United, this will be a tough match after overcoming both Leicester City and Astana in the past week.
The key battles will be tough for both teams as they look to find ways to get the better of each other and aim to grasp all three points that this match has to offer. I have picked three United players and the three West Ham players that they may need to battle against in order to get the much-needed result from this game.
Key Players: United and the Hammers have key players in all areas of the pitch who could all make the difference in the battle to win this match.
Manchester United: David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Jesse Lingard, Daniel James, Marcus Rashford
West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Andriy Yarmolenko, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Sébastien Haller
Key Battles: Harry Maguire tasked with nullifying Sébastien Haller, Jesse Lingard aiming to get the better of Declan Rice and Marcus Rashford to teach Issa Diop a lesson he may never forget?
Key Battle One: Harry Maguire versus Sébastien Haller
Harry Maguire has really helped United find some solidity in their defence this season. Last season a total of 54 goals were conceded in the Premier League alone. This season, just four goals have been conceded so far. Maguire is an experienced player who will be seen as one of the leaders in the team, something needed at the club which lack leadership.
Maguire will need to be at his best, which after his break in the week could well see him there. Sébastien Haller, the French striker who signed for the Hammers from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer already has three goals to his name this season and will be seeking more, especially keeping in mind his side won this fixture 3-1 last season.
Key Battle Two: Jesse Lingard versus Declan Rice
Jesse Lingard has not achieved much for United, in terms of goalscoring or creating goals. The player will turn 27 in December, and should really be in the peak of his career as a footballer, despite the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson stated that he would be a late developer. In order to be part of the club going forward, creating and scoring goals is needed from him.
Lingard could be targeted by Declan Rice, who played the defensive midfield role with the Hammers, which could pose problems for Lingard and United, if he is at the top of his game, which may or may not be the case. United need to find the channels that will feed those forward players seeking goals, either direct to Rashford or wide to Daniel James.
Key Battle Three: Marcus Rashford versus Issa Diop
Marcus Rashford will have the weight of the world on his shoulders when United face West Ham on Sunday. Not only is he on the cusp of reaching a milestone, 50 goals for United, he knows that he is the driving force of the team with the expectation of his performance being to score goals. This will not be easy for him, or United to follow through with, based on form.
Rashford may have a fight against Issa Diop, who was linked to the Old Trafford club in the summer for an extortionate fee, a fee the player is not worth, in my opinion. The Hammers have kept three clean sheets this season, all in their last three matches. Rashford could aim to score a brace, then set the target of reaching 100 goals for United.