Key Players & Battles: Matic and Hernandez key in West Ham clash; Bailly, Herrera, and Lukaku to have battles on the pitch


Manchester United will be pitted against West Ham United in their opening match of the new Premier League season at 16:00 BST on Sunday at Old Trafford. Javier Hernandez could get his return to the Theatre of Dreams and his competitive West Ham debut after sealing a move from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen during the summer. Jose Mourinho has tipped a seven-way battle for the Premier League title this season, of which the Portuguese manager will be seeking to keep his second-season record alive having won the league at every club he has managed in his second season; FC Porto, Chelsea (twice), Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Hammers manager Slaven Bilic will be looking to put last season behind him, starting well in the league against United, aiming to take three points away from the Theatre of Dreams, Mourinho, on the other hand, will be looking to do the same thing, start the Premier League season with a good victory.

Key Players: Nemanja Matic and Javier Hernandez hold the key for Manchester United and West Ham United

Nemanja Matic and Javier Hernandez both joined their new clubs this summer and will both be looking to make their Premier League debuts on Sunday at Old Trafford. Matic is a defensive midfielder, a position which United needed to strengthen this summer, despite having Michael Carrick at the club for another season. Matic made his debut for United against Sampdoria, the final friendly match of the summer, playing 45 minutes and looking like he had been at United for a long time. The Serbian also played 90 minutes against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday, putting in a good performance in the defeat to the La Liga and UEFA Champions League holders. Hernandez has played for the Hammer during the summer, making his debut in the 3-3 draw with Altona 93, playing the final 20 minutes of the match, also playing the second half in the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City. Chicharito is still looking for his first Hammers goal.

Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic was a surprise move from Chelsea this summer, at least a surprise to manager Antonio Conte who seemingly wanted to keep the player. The Serbian has done well at United during the one and a half matches played so far, making his competitive debut against Real Madrid on Tuesday evening, a 2-1 defeat. Matic played well and showed his abilities and how United could well be back in the driving seat for the race for the Premier League title with him on the side. Matic, a Premier League champions last season, will be looking to win the title back to back, returning his new team to the pinnacle of English football. Jose Mourinho knows the type of player he has got, how he can be relied upon and just what tools he has in his locker. This should be a good season for Mourinho, Matic and United.

Javier Hernandez

Javier Hernandez left Manchester United in the summer of 2015 after then manager Louis van Gaal sold him to Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. Hernandez was a good striker for United and had a goal or two in him, but at times he was very frustrating. Jose Mourinho stated earlier in the summer that Hernandez was a player he would not have sold had he been the United manager at the time, which fueled rumours of a return to Old Trafford, which the player will get on Sunday, just playing against United rather than for. Chicharito is still searching for his first goal for West Ham and if that happens against United, the player will be ready to lock and load for the remainder of the season.

Key Battles: Eric Bailly, Ander Herrera and Romelu Lukaku to have their work cut out for them against West Ham United

Eric Bailly -v- Javier Hernandez

Eric Bailly had a great first season for Manchester United and that was after Jose Mourinho suggested the Ivorian was a player for the future, rather than the now. Bailly was United’s best central defender last season, showing the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and even Daly Blind what is needed from a player in this position. Bailly set the benchmark which saw Mourinho bring in Victor Lindelof as his first signing of the summer, the player not yet finding his feet at the club. Bailly could be pitted against Javier Hernandez, a fox in the box and capable of getting the best of a defender to find a goal. If Chicharito plays and Bailly has to be the man in the defence to cut chances out, he will be hard tasked against the Mexican, especially if his teammates are creating goalscoring opportunities for him. Bailly is made of stern stuff though, so he could get the better of the Little Pea.

Ander Herrera -v- Andre Ayew

Ander Herrera had a good season under Jose Mourinho, playing a blinder against Chelsea in which United beat the Premier League champions 2-0, man-marking Eden Hazard. Herrera will be able to play a much different role for United this season with Matic’s arrival but the Spanish midfielder may still need to use his man-marking talents to stifle the opposition. Andre Ayew, should he play on Sunday could be the player Herrera has to cut out of the game to stop creating goal scoring opportunities, especially with Chicharito waiting around the box to score crucial goals for the Hammers. Ayew played 25 times in the Premier League last season, scoring six goals and creating 15 chances for his teammates. Ayew could be a threat on goal himself, which is something Herrera may have to stifle out of the game.

Romelu Lukaku -v- Joe Hart

Romelu Lukaku has already found the back of the net for United during pre-season, also scoring his first competitive goal for the club against Real Madrid on Tuesday evening. The Belgian striker scored 25 goals in the Premier League for Everton last season and United will be looking for something similar from him this season. Going against former Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart in the league could well see the Belgian to his first goal for United in the league. Hart has spent a season away from Manchester City on loan with Torino in the Italian Serie A, not having a great season to come back to the most competitive league in the world. Hart conceded three goals in West Ham’s last pre-season match against City, which shows he may not be ready for the full force of the Premier League, which could see the England goalkeeper as one of the weak links in the squad. If so, the likes of Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford could find goals aplenty, should United start Sunday’s match strongly.

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