Manchester United return to Premier League action on Sunday when they travel to the London Stadium to face West Ham United, which is the first of two matches against the London club in the next five or six days with United welcoming the club to the Theatre of Dreams in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be looking to bounce back from the defeat to BSC Young Boys in the opening UEFA Champions League group stage match on Tuesday evening, which saw Aaron Wan-Bissaka sent off for a challenge, Cristiano Ronaldo score his third goal this season and United fail to keep their 1-0 lead.
It is one of those things in football – it happens. It just annoys me that some supporters seem to put the victories down to ‘individual brilliance’ but always seem to blame Solskjaer for the defeats or the draws. Some of these people on social media seem to be very quiet when United win, seemingly only tweeting when United lose or draw, which seems very strange to me. That said, you are not allowed to criticise these people as they are always right, even when they are wrong. They seem to want the club to never achieve anything, always changing the manager, then moaning about the lack of stability brought by their demands.
Previous meetings with West Ham and their connections with Manchester United.
United and West Ham have played a total of 50 matches in the history of the Premier League. United have won 30 times, drawing 13 times with the Hammers winning the remaining seven matches. United have scored a total of 99 goals against the Hammers, winning five penalties and scoring four of them. West Ham have scored 45 goals, winning three penalties and scoring all of them. United have kept 19 clean sheets with the Hammer keeping just seven. In terms of discipline, United players have been shown a total of 62 yellow cards and four red cards with the Hammers’ players being shown 72 yellow cards and two red cards.
There is a lot of history between United and the Hammers. David Moyes, the Hammers’ manager was the former manager of United during the ill-fated 2013/14 season and he was sacked before the season even finished. There have been many players to have played for both clubs, the most receipt being Jesse Lingard, who spent the second half of last season at the club. The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Teddy Sheringham, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Tevez, Roy Carroll, David Bellion, Jonathan Spector and Ravel Morrison have all played for both clubs and probably more in the not too distant past.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face West Ham United in the Premier League at the London Stadium on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea will be seeking to keep his place in goal ahead of the clash with West Ham on Sunday afternoon. The Spanish goalkeeper has played all five matches that United have played this season, conceding five goals and keeping one clean sheet. It was an unfortunate defeat against the Young Boys in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, which is something that the club must bounce back form this weekend, keeping their place at the summit of the Premier League, which would seem a likely outcome. If they were not the top team in the league, they would be close to it. United need to continue the momentum they have set this season.
The supporters of the club could do with getting behind the manager and the players, rather than wishing defeats come and the manager is sacked, as that has happened before and each time it seems to set United back even further. Things are done without their acceptance because they have no control of any outcome at the club, so the sooner they realise they are nothing but critics who people don’t listen to, the better. De Gea has started this season in fine form, turning back the years and proving himself ahead of the challenges that will come – Dean Henderson seeking to become number one and Tom Heaton also challenging for matches.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence suffered a setback in the opening Champions League match of the season, falling to a 2-1 defeat to the Young Boys. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off for a bad foul which left United with ten men and having to sacrifice an attacking player for Diogo Dalot, then resort to a five at the back formation, under attack, which was unable to keep a 1-0 lead from Cristiano Ronaldo’s opening goal. Against the Hammers, Solskjaer will need to find a way for his side to bounce back and grind out another win in the Premier League this season, also seeking to extend their 28-match unbeaten record on the road in the Premier League.
Diogo Dalot could be given a rare Premier League start with Wan-Bissaka being dropped to the bench for this match, giving him a rest ahead of the suspension he will receive in the Champions League in just over a week and a half, which could be good for United and keeping key players fresh for other matches. Luke Shaw should keep his place in the left-back position, doing well against the Young Boys, despite doing more defending than attacking, which was rare after his start to the season. Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane should start in the centre of defence, which could keep United ticking over – although Victor Lindelof will be seeking a start too.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba
The midfield is not ideal for United at this time as there is a lack of balance. Nemanja Matic is the only experienced defensive midfielder with Fred making more mistakes that settling in at the club after a number of years. Donny van de Beek seems to be getting few chances with Scott McTominay sitting out a period of time following the groin injury he sustained against Southampton earlier in the season. With the Scotland international back in training and likely to be involved against the Hammers, either this weekend or in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, things could start to improve a little for United.
With McTominay picked to start in this match, providing that he has gone through all the fitness tests and he is ready to start playing again, it could come at the right time for Solskjaer, whose options in this area seem limited with players selected being limited in terms of their ability. Paul Pogba could feature in the pivot once again, as he played an advanced role on the left-wing against the Young Boys, which did not seem to work for United, especially after the sending off of Aaron Wan-Bissaka. This could work though with McTominay mopping up the defensive duties and Pogba linking the defence with the attack.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho
United have many great options in these positions ahead of the clash with the Hammers. I think Solskjaer will go back to basics with Mason Greenwood, who scored in the first three Premier League matches of the season, playing on the right-wing, which is a position that he has excelled in at times, also running into the box and picking off the goalkeeper, or even assisting for the striker or another attacking player, which was shown a few times last season. Bruno Fernandes will play through the middle but we could Donny van de Beek come on in the second half to give the Portuguese magnifico a bit of rest ahead of the challenge later in the week.
Fernandes has scored four goals for United this season, also getting one assist but he is being challenged by Cristiano Ronaldo, who has three goals in his first two appearances for the club this season. Jadon Sancho could start on the left-wing once again, which is a position he can play in – although he may be more comfortable on the right. He was taken off before half time against Young Boys on Tuesday as United were down to ten men – which was through no fault of his own. United attacking players have lots of excitement in them with Ronaldo, Fernandes and Greenwood al scoring so far this season and Sancho seeking to score.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo
Since re-signing for United this summer, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored three goals in two appearances, making it 121 goals for the club, matching Andy Cole. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is in his sights, scoring 126 goals for the club during his time as a player. Wayne Rooney’s record is a long way off and might not be achievable for the 36-year-old but you never know in this game. Ronaldo was determined to get a good result for United in the Champions League this week, but a 2-1 defeat – the first of the season will have hit the team hard but given them determination against the Hammers to get back to winning ways.
There seems to be a lot of criticism of United and Ronaldo in the media and amongst fans of other clubs but that just shows you that Manchester United are coming back and people are threatened as to what the club could achieve. Manchester City lost their opening match this season, losing to Tottenham Hotspur but little was said about that but when United lose – hold the front page and the following seven pages as every man and his dog wants to say something about that. United are back, they are still a work in progress but to be able to grind out the results they already have grinder out this season shows that something is being created at the club.
Substitutes: Tom Heaton; Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek; Anthony Martial, Anthony Elanga
Solskjaer made many changes in the defeat to Young Boys in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, but the gamble did not pay off for him as United capitulated and conceded two second half goals to earn their first defeat of the 2021/22 season – it was going to come at some point. Back in the Premier League, United will be able to name nine substitutes, using just three of them. I think Tom Heaton will remain on the bench for United as I don’t think Dean Henderson will be over his fatigue from his battle with coronavirus and his match fitness will not be where it needs to be to play his first match in the top flight this season.
Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be the substitutes in the defensive positions, although Alex Telles is now back in training from his ankle injury but it may be a week or so before he is considered for a place on the bench, let alone a starting place for United. In the midfield, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek could all be available against the Hammers – which will be another challenge for United – one that they will need to get the better of this weekend, if they want to challenge for the Premier League title this season. In attack, Anthony Martial and Anthony Elanga could both be available – it would be great to see the latter.
Written by John Walker