Manchester United face West Ham United at the London Stadium in the Premier League on Sunday evening seeking to overcome their last-minute defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on Thursday evening. It looked destined to be a 0-0 draw but a late penalty conceded by Luke Shaw saw Alexis Mac Allister bury the spot kick into the back of the net with Brighton looking to reach European football next season. United could be two or three wins away from confirming their place.
West Ham have not been in great form recently – losing their last three matches against Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Manchester City. It has put them back into a possible relegation battle just four points away from the relegation zone. However, the likelihood is that the relegation candidates are the five teams below them; Leicester City, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Everton and Southampton – unless the Hammer’s continued to lose – which is a distinct possibility.
United under Erik ten Hag this season has been a massive positive compared to last season. There has been a massive rise on competitiveness but at this stage of the season, there is a lot of fatigue and injury in the squad which has all come at the wrong time. But that is what happens in this game and United are not the only club suffering that at this stage of the season. It is a clear indication that better players must be sought in the summer with fringe players leaving.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw, Dalot;
Antony, Fernandes, Sancho;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea was brilliant against Brighton on Thursday evening. He made some great saves to keep United in the match and unfortunately conceded a late penalty which saw a draw end in defeat for United. It could have been his 16th clean sheet of the Premier League season. He has been a good goalkeeper for United this season but there are some flaws in his game. That is to be expected with any goalkeeper in world football in all fairness.
United do have some talented goalkeepers ar the club at this time by Tom Heaton is currently injured and Jack Butland has not yet made his debut for the club – that should happen before the end of the season though as I am sure Erik ten Hag will be seeking to rest De Gea prior to the Emirates FA Cup final at the start of June. United will need their best players to be fit and rested before taking on Manchester City at Wembley Stadium to contest the trophy.
De Gea has been pretty much perfect with his shot stopping of late and with 15 Premier League clean sheets so far this season, he will be looking to continue being the leader in the league to win the Golden Boot this season. United will need to sort out their defensive insecurities though for that to happen. Despite De Gea being a good shot stopper, penalties are an issue as shown in the clash with Brighton on Thursday evening with Alexis Mac Allister beating him.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw, Dalot
United’s defence has been largely positive this season but the ongoing injury crisis in the defence is a problem for United. Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane are on the sidelines through injury with the Argentinian out for the remainder of the season and the Frenchman likely to be in action before the end of the month. United have utilised Luke Shaw in the central defensive position with Harry Maguire having been left on the bench for the last few matches.
In the fullback positions I would expect to see Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot featuring against West Ham. Wan-Bissaka is a positive player on the right and his partnership with Antony has been a revelation with both players working well on the attack. Dalot, predominantly a right-back, will start on the left where he started the last match. Tyrell Malacia could have an involvement Against the Hammers but ti could be from the bench, if he was needed.
In the centre of defence, Ten Hag will most likely start Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw, keeping Maguire on the bench just in case he is needed. Lindelof has been a really positive presence in the United defence in the last few matches and there is no reason to change that. Shaw has also played well but in the last match he gave away a penalty which resulted in United losing. He should be starting to get rid of that feeling of conceding the penalty which caused United to lose.
Midfield: Casemiro, Eriksen
United’s midfield has been strong this season – the strongest for some time at the club. Casemiro and Christian Eriksen have been the mainstay over the course of the season, despite suspension and injury affecting them respectively. Both players have been intrinsic to United achievements this season. The midfield of Fred and Scott McTominay, which was the mainstay at the club last season, was not good enough for the club to strive to achieve. This season, it’s different.
Casemiro has got himself a reputation in England, which is pretty unfair. He’s been sent off and suspended for things others have not this season. That said, he’s such a brilliant player to have run United’s midfield and he does a lot of work. His five goals and six assists this season have been great for the club – which proves that the goals have been coming from all over the pitch but largely from a few positions – which bodes well for the players at the club.
Eriksen has achieved something this season too. His two goals and nine assists have helped United and for a free agent last summer, it shows what a bargain the transfer was. Both Casemiro and Eriksen should start against West Ham and the likes of Fred and Marcel Sabitzer could offer something in the latter stages of this match. United will need that as Casemiro and Eriksen will need rotation – Eriksen was rested against Brighton and Casemiro will be rested at some point.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Sancho
These positions are important for United. The majority of the goals scored by the club have been scored from these positions with Marcus Rashford playing largely on the left-wing. However, at the moment it is expected that he will be the main striker, with Anthony Martial and Wout Weghorst not finding the back of the net all that often. United’s attacking players have had a good season but there is more to achieve for United and they need to be successful there.
Antony has eight goals and one assist so far this season, which is very good considering it is his first season in the Premier League. I would like to see him get his goals into double figures this season – that will be a major positive for him ahead of the new season. Bruno Fernandes is one the main sparks for United this season. 11 goals scored and a further 12 assists makes hims the second-best provider of goals for United this season. He has been impressive since he signed in January 2020.
Jadon Sancho has not been in great form this season and spent three months out of action. He has six goals and two assists so far this season and is the best player to operate on the left-wing with Rashford playing as a striker. He could find some form and inspiration at this stage of the season. United have few players in this positions to find the goals at this stage. The likes of Facundo Pellistri, Anthony Elanga, Wout Weghorst and Anthony Martial can all feature here.
Marcus Rashford has had a great season for United. 29 goals scored and a further nine assist puts him at 38 goal contributions for the season. What an achievement. Granted, he is better on the left-wing but has scored as the striker. The fact that Anthony Martial looks set to ens the season in uninspiring form, Rashford will need to be the player to bring the goals for the remainder of the season. I am sure he would like to cross the 30 goal mark before the season ends.
Rashford will need to be the leading creator for the goals to get United what they need – wins in the Premier League. United have a job to do and can get their UEFA Champions League qualification sorted for next season A few more wins could see that become a reality so United can start resting those players who have played a lot of matches this season. And there are a fair few of them to be fair. Rashford will want to strive to bring what United need – he will want the plaudits.
United have a few options in this position but in terms of quality, goals are lacking. Anthony Martial, Wout Weghorst and Anthony Elanga could all play in this position but only Martial and Weghorst have scored goals this season – seven and two respectively. Elanga has two assists with Martial and Weghorst both having three each. United will need to buy well in the transfer market to strengthen this position next season, or the same struggles will come from the season.
Substitutes: Butland; Maguire, Malacia; Sabitzer, Fred, Pellistri; Martial, Weghorst, Garnacho
Ten Hag will have nine substitutes on the bench against West Ham – five of them can be used throughout the match. United need to have answers if it does not work out with the starting players, which has been the case recently. Jack Butland is likely to be the goalkeeper on the bench with Tom Heaton still out of action through injury. Despite not making any appearances for the club so far this season, he will be seeking to get at least one for United before the season is over.
In defence, Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia could both be available should United require defensive reinforcement against the Hammers. That will likely be what happens though as United will be needing all three points in this match so they can continue their quest of achieving a UEFA Champions League place next season. United typically come against it at the end of a match and may need defensive surety, especially if they are leading with 10 minutes left.
In the midfield, Marcel Sabitzer, Fred and Facundo Pellistri should all be available to feature against the Hammers from the bench. United will need other options to take the strain off both Casemiro and Eriksen. In attack, which is where United lack major quality, Anthony Martial, Wout Weghorst and Alejandro Garnacho could all be available. Although, Garnacho will be a slight doubt having not trained much – in which case Anthony Elanga could start.
Written by John Walker