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Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Cavani, Rashford, Fernandes and Greenwood in attack? Van de Beek and McTominay in midfield? Henderson in goal?

Manchester United welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford in the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday evening. This will be the thirteenth time that United and the Hammers have been drawn against each other in England’s oldest domestic trophy. Both United and the Hammers are in good form with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United scoring 12 goals in their last two matches and David Moyes’ Hammers coming back from a defeat to Liverpool to beat Aston Villa during the week, which saw loanee Jesse Lingard score a brace to help win the match. A draw with Fulham put them on a similar path to United, who also had a win and a draw in their last two matches. This will be a fight of the fittest and the hungriest team will reach the quarter-final stage.

Lingard is not eligible to face United in the FA Cup as he featured against Watford in the third round of the competition earlier this season, so is cup-tied. If he had not played, he could have featured against United should their have no nothing stated in the contract forbidding that. United will be eager to get back to winning ways after having victory over Everton snatched from their grasp at the death on Saturday evening, which made the 3-3 draw feel like a defeat. Solskjaer will need to work with his players in the days ahead to find the problems and hope that they can be solved before kick off at the Theatre of Dreams on Tuesday evening. United will be seeking to put their semi-final defeat to Chelsea last season behind them and aim to win the cup this season.

How United have faired against West Ham United in the Emirates FA Cup.

United and the Hammers have met 12 times in the history of the Emirates FA Cup. United have won five times, drawing three times and losing four times. United have scored a total of 21 goals, conceding 15. United have kept four clean sheets with the Hammers keeping two. United have lost just two of their matches against the Hammers in the FA Cup at Old Trafford – the last time being just over 20 years ago; a 1-0 victory for the Hammers in which Paulo Di Canio scored the only goal of the match. Prior to that, the other defeat at Old Trafford was in 1986 before Sir Alex Ferguson managed the club. Ray Stewart and Geoff Pike scored the goals for the Hammers back then.

United last faced the Hammers in the FA Cup back on the 13 April 2016 at Upton Park in the sixth round replay after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford a month prior. Dimitri Payet scored the opening goal in the draw with Anthony Martial equalising in the 83rd minute. At Upton Park, United won 2-1 with Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini scoring for United and James Tomkins getting a consolation for the Hammers. That season, under the management of Louis van Gaal, United went on to win the FA Cup, beating Everton 2-1 at Wembley in the semi-final and then beating Crystal Palace 2-1, after extra time, in the final. It was the first major honour for United after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson three years prior.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face West Ham United in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening…

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson

Dean Henderson should start against West Ham United on Tuesday evening. David De Gea’s form is starting to pose similar questions as it did ahead of the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea last season. United lost that match because of errors caused by the goalkeeper. Henderson has the talent to succeed at the club and perhaps he should be given the chance, which might help De Gea work in the background to rediscover his form once again. Henderson played twice against the Hammers last season, drawing 1-1, conceding a goal scored by Robert Snodgrass, at the London Stadium, helping his side win 1-0 at Bramall Lane. Henderson is a confident player and has played most of his football in cup competitions this season, so should be involved once again.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

United conceded three goals against Everton at the weekend and they will need to keep the Hammers at bay. Earlier this season, David Moyes’ side opened the scoring at the London Stadium with United having to come from behind, which they did, winning the match 3-1. Eric Bailly has a small chance of featuring for United at the moment which means Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw will probably start once again. Wan-Bissaka and Shaw have both performed well of late with the main problems seemingly in the centre of defence. Solving that problem and returning to winning ways is necessary for United to prevail this season. They have as good a chance as any to win the Emirates FA Cup this season.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek

Paul Pogba looks set to be on the sidelines for an unknown period fo time after suffering from a thigh injury against Everton at the weekend. With this in mind, Solskjaer should probably give Donny van de Beek a chance to start for United, seeing if he can fill the void Pogba will leave after his period of form over the past month or so. Scott McTominay should partner him as he is also in some good form at this stage of the season, scoring his sixth goal of the season against Everton, scoring twice in his last two matches. The midfield is an area that has many talented players to pick. Fred played well against Everton, but on this occasion, he should be on the bench to add something later on in the game, if he is needed.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford

Bruno Fernandes scored his 18th goal of the season against Everton at the weekend and it should be a goal of the month contender for February and possibly in the list for potential goals of the season. He really has turned this United team into something to be contended with. He has bags of talent and despite a handful of poor performances, he always seems to find something out of nothing to make things so much better, which was the case for his goal which put United 2-0 up just before half time against the Toffees. Marcus Rashford has bagged 16 goals so far this season but at times his decision-making needs to see some improvement, as well as his finishing. Mason Greenwood played a good game at the weekend and should keep his place in the team.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani is everything that is needed in a Manchester United striker. He knows how to position himself, where to find the goals and his headers into the back of the net are something that has been missing at the club for a few years now. Cavani will turn 34 next Sunday but the form he is in makes his age just a number – nothing more. Anthony Martial bagged two goals against Southampton earlier in the week as United ran riot, winning 9-0 but he was unused against Everton, which might be telling with regards to his overall form this season. Of course, he might start against the Hammers but it seems to be working the way it is for United right now so if it is not broken, why should it be fixed. Martial might be able to come on late in the game to add something.

Substitutes: David De Gea; Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams; Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Daniel James; Anthony Martial

Nine substitutes will be able to be named one the bench, the same for the Premier League and the Carabao Cup but in the Emirates FA Cup, up to five substitutions are able to be made in three different periods (not including the half time break) throughout the match. If extra time is needed, a sixth substitution could be used. David De Gea should be on the bench for this match after his form deteriorated against Everton. In defence, Eric Bailly will hopefully be fit to play a part, however small, Alex Telles and Brandon Williams could add to the fullback areas, should a change be needed. In midfield, Juan Mata, Fred and Daniel James could be involved with Amad Diallo on the bench if Solskjaer feels the timing is right. In attack, Anthony Martial should be available as the only attacking player on the bench.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Edinson Cavani to lead United’s attack against West Ham in the Emirates FA Cup? Henderson to start ahead of De Gea?

Manchester United -v- West Ham United

Emirates FA Cup

Old Trafford, Manchester

Tuesday 9 February 2021, KO 19:30 GMT

Referee: Paul Tierney Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis and Ian Hussin

Fourth Official: Lee Mason

VAR: Craig Pawson Assistant VAR: Richard West

Manchester United welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford in the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup on Tuesday evening. This will be the thirteenth time that United and the Hammers have been drawn against each other in England’s oldest domestic trophy. Both United and the Hammers are in good form with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United scoring 12 goals in their last two matches and David Moyes’ Hammers coming back from a defeat to Liverpool to beat Aston Villa during the week, which saw loanee Jesse Lingard score a brace to help win the match. A draw with Fulham put them on a similar path to United, who also had a win and a draw in their last two matches. This will be a fight of the fittest and the hungriest team will reach the quarter-final stage.

Lingard is not eligible to face United in the FA Cup as he featured against Watford in the third round of the competition earlier this season, so is cup-tied. If he had not played, he could have featured against United should their have no nothing stated in the contract forbidding that. United will be eager to get back to winning ways after having victory over Everton snatched from their grasp at the death on Saturday evening, which made the 3-3 draw feel like a defeat. Solskjaer will need to work with his players in the days ahead to find the problems and hope that they can be solved before kick off at the Theatre of Dreams on Tuesday evening. United will be seeking to put their semi-final defeat to Chelsea last season behind them and aim to win the cup this season.

Manchester United: DWDLWW

Everton 3-3 D, Southampton 9-0 W, Arsenal 0-0 D, Sheffield United 1-2 L, Liverpool 3-2 W, Fulham 2-1 W

West Ham United: DWLWWW

Fulham 0-0 D, Aston Villa 3-1 W, Liverpool 3-1 L, Crystal Palace 3-2 W, Doncaster Rovers 4-0 W, West Bromwich Albion 2-1 W

Top Scorers: Bruno Fernandes (18), Marcus Rashford (16), Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial (7) have outscored West Ham United so far this season. The Hammers have scored a total of 45 goals in all competitions. United have scored 75 goals so far this season.

Manchester United Goals: 18 – Bruno Fernandes, 16 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, 6 – Scott McTominay, 4 – Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, 3 – Daniel James, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Own Goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Donny van de Beek

Over the past six matches, United have won three times, draw twice and lost once. Solskjaer’s side have scored 18 goals, conceding eight and keeping two clean sheets. Twelve of the goals have been scored in the last two matches with United beating Southampton 9-0 and drawing 3-3 with Everton, which saw United go 2-0 up, with Everton coming back to 2-2 in seven second half minutes with United taking the lead once again, only to suffer a draw at the very death of the match. United’s defence needs some improvement and in goal, David De Gea will need to face his demons and find the root cause of his problems with confidence and a lacking ability to go out and grab the ball, rather than welcome the shot, which tends to be a mistake.

West Ham United Goals: 8 – Tomas Soucek, 7 – Sébastien Haller, 5 – Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen, 3 – Craig Dawson, Pablo Fornals, Andriy Yarmolenko, 2 – Jesse Lingard, Angelo Ogbonna, Robert Snodgrass, 1 – Oladapo Afolayan, Felipe Anderson, Fabián Balbuena, Ben Johnson, Manuel Lanzini

Over the past six matches, the Hammers have won four times, draw once and lost once. Moyes’ side have scored 13 goals, conceding seven and keeping two clean sheets. Moyes has the Hammers playing well this season and at the time of writing, the club were fifth in the Premier League, which is a good position for them to be in at this stage of the season. United have beaten the Hammers already this season, winning 3-1 at the London Stadium at the start of December. Tomas Soucek scored the opening goal for this club but Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford scored to give all three points to United, keeping their away record in the league unbeaten this season.

Team News: Phil Jones and Paul Pogba to miss the Hammers clash with Eric Bailly having a 25% chance of featuring. David Moyes to be without Arthur Masuaku and maybe even Darren Randolph. Tomas Soucek red card might also keep him out of action, unless the club wins their appeal. Jesse Lingard is cup-tied so cannot feature against United.

Phil Jones (knee) and Paul Pogba (thigh) have both been ruled out of the clash with West Ham United in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening. Eric Bailly (knock) currently has a 25% chance of featuring against David Moyes’ side. Pogba’s injury looks like a tough one which could see the player on the sidelines for a number of weeks, but there severity of it has not yet been discovered so there remains a chance that he could be out for a lesser period of time. Amad Diallo seems to be enjoying his football at U23 level right now and despite the fact many would like to see him make his debut, him enjoying his football at the level he’s currently playing in might be best for him, unless Solskjaer has plans for him soon, which was intimated.

Tomas Soucek (suspended) is currently set to miss the clash with United at Old Trafford after being sent off by Mike Dean in the 0-0 draw with Fulham on Saturday. The red card seems harsh and Aleksandar Mitrović’s reaction was unsportsmanlike to say the least. The Hammers have appealed the red card, so if it is rescinded, he could feature against United. Arthur Masuaku (knee) has been ruled out of the match and Darren Randolph (knock) is currently being assessed and has a 25% chance of being fit to face United. Jesse Lingard is not eligible to play against United as he is cup-tied in the competition, having already played for United in the 1-0 victory over Watford at the start of January.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood to lead the attack against the Hammers; Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay in midfield? Dean Henderson in goal?

Solskjaer will need to look into whether David De Gea has what it takes to lead United into the Emirates FA Cup with a view of making the quarter-finals of the competition this season. Last season, after some poor performances, De Gea cost United in the semi-final against Chelsea with some big glaring errors similar to those against Everton at the weekend. Dean Henderson has played in the cup competitions so far this season, so should be given his chance to feature for United once again. Edinson Cavani is the main striker in this team right now, so should keep his place once again. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood will take the wide places with Bruno Fernandes in behind the striker. Donny van de Beek start with Scott McTominay in midfield.

Match Prediction: United and the Hammers have met 12 times in the Emirates FA Cup with United winning five times, drawing three times and losing four times. United have scored 21 goals, conceding 15.

United and the Hammers have met 12 times in the history of the Emirates FA Cup. United have won five times, drawing three times and losing four times. United have scored a total of 21 goals, conceding 15. United have kept four clean sheets with the Hammers keeping two. United have lost just two of their matches against the Hammers in the FA Cup at Old Trafford – the last time being just over 20 years ago; a 1-0 victory for the Hammers in which Paulo Di Canio scored the only goal of the match. Prior to that, the other defeat at Old Trafford was in 1986 before Sir Alex Ferguson managed the club. Ray Stewart and Geoff Pike scored the goals for the Hammers back then.

United last faced the Hammers in the FA Cup back on the 13 April 2016 at Upton Park in the sixth round replay after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford a month prior. Dimitri Payet scored the opening goal in the draw with Anthony Martial equalising in the 83rd minute. At Upton Park, United won 2-1 with Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini scoring for United and James Tomkins getting a consolation for the Hammers. That season, under the management of Louis van Gaal, United went on to win the FA Cup, beating Everton 2-1 at Wembley in the semi-final and then beating Crystal Palace 2-1, after extra time, in the final. It was the first major honour for United after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson three years prior.

Manchester United 3-1 West Ham United

Written by John Walker

Ranked: Every post-Sir Alex Ferguson season ranked from worst to best

On the 8 May 2013, the world of football was sent into a state of shock. Journalist rooms were sent into a state of frenzy and Manchester United fans sent into a saddened mood. Sir Alex Ferguson had announced his retirement. 

Fresh on the back of winning United’s twentieth English league title, his thirteenth, Sir Alex Ferguson would leave United needing a new manager for the first time in 27 years. After keeping his promise of knocking Liverpool off their perch, it would now fall to other managers to lead United into a new period of glory. 

Nearly eight years down the line and Old Trafford has seen four different managers (not including Ryan Giggs as interim manager) and success has been hard to find. Not many of the seasons that have followed that final Sir Alex Ferguson league title can truly be called successful. 

For the first time in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era, United can currently consider themselves in the title race. If they can keep at that current form, then it might go down as the best season since. Let me review each season since David Moyes became the first new United manager since 1986.

7. 2013/14 Season

Ah, poor David Moyes. It just wasn’t meant to be. Much has been made of whether United should have gone in for Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho, in order to continue the success that Sir Alex Ferguson brought to the club. In the end the honour fell to fellow Scot, Moyes. Moyes had served a long apprenticeship at Preston and then Everton, the latter leading to many plaudits coming his way. He would leave Everton on the back of finishing in the top eight, eight seasons in a row. In the 2004/05 season, they would finish fourth in the league, however, Liverpool’s win in the Champions League, prevented a well-deserved European campaign. However, failure to win a trophy in that time, runner-up in the FA Cup would be as close as he got, was a slight worry as he made the short journey from Merseyside to Manchester. 

His United tenure started well. A win in the Community Shield and an opening day 4-1 win over Swansea gave United fans optimism that it would be business as usual despite the change. You could argue, however, that would be as good as it got. A home draw against Chelsea followed and then his first Liverpool game would end in defeat. A crushing defeat to City (4-1), would leave him 0-2 in Derby games. A home defeat against West Brom, a West Brom who hadn’t won against United since 1984, left United with their worst start after six games in 24 years. 

Many more of those records would be broken as the season went on and despite a seven-game unbeaten run after that West Brom defeat, inconsistency would plague the rest of the season. Four wins in a row just before the turn of year led to hopes they had turned the corner, but the rest of the season would be a tough watch. A penalty shootout defeat to Sunderland denied United a League Cup final and 3-0 home defeats to both Liverpool and Manchester City left Moyes on the brink. Hope of a shock win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League was quickly extinguished and despite back to back wins scoring four goals in both games, defeat away, cruelly ironically, to his former club Everton meant David Moyes would fail to see at his first season at the club. Ryan Giggs took the final four games and would blood in a few youngsters, a bright spark being James Wilson scoring twice on his debut. 

Moyes ripped up the backroom staff that had sent many years under Sir Alex Ferguson and knew the ins and outs of the club. In hindsight, it was a bad move, but you can’t blame him too much to want to stamp his on authority at a club where one manager had led for so long. Many would point to the squad not being the best it could have been when Sir Alex Ferguson left and that United failed to get in the player’s he wanted to boost the squad. Of course, it was also a first season for new executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward. Criticism over transfer dealings continue to this day but bringing in only Marouane Fellaini did not help the cause. Juan Mata signed in the new year, but it wasn’t enough to save Moyes from the chop and give United their worst season since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club. The emergence of Adnan Januzaj could not even paper over this shocking season. 

6. 2018/19 Season

What an odd season. Finishing second the season before, hopes of Jose Mourinho being able to bridge the 19-point gap between United and winners City, were high. That would be the only thing that would be high. Performance levels were low. League positions were low. Confidence was extremely low. A 3-1 defeat to Liverpool left United sixth with just seven wins in 17 games. Dressing room discontent, a toxic environment and a manager who felt he wasn’t backed was not tenable and Mourinho would leave before Christmas. 

Enter Ole Gunner Solskjaer. United legend. Scorer of the 1999 European Cup winner in THAT game against Bayern Munich. Everything he touched turned to gold. 10 wins in 12 games league games (the other two draws) including FA Cup wins over Arsenal and Chelsea, moved United into fourth place as they travelled to Paris for the second leg of the last 16 Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain. United had lost the first leg 2-0, the only defeat in the interim period. Incredibly a last-minute Marcus Rashford penalty sent United into the quarter-final despite being injury ravaged, missing 10 first team players, with Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood finishing the game on the pitch as United chased a winner. 

The clamour for Solskjaer to be handed the job permanently became too much for the United top brass to ignore and the confirmation was announced soon after. In almost a complete reverse of his first 17 games, the next 12 games would yield just two wins. Numerous opportunities to secure fourth place came and went, and even victories over already relegated Huddersfield and Cardiff in the final two games of the season, would have led to Champions League football again. As we all know, two shocking performances would follow. United would finish sixth, incidentally the same position United were in when Mourinho was sacked. Worries were starting to circulate that Solskjaer was the wrong man for the job and the club were too hasty in his appointment. Solskjaer believed that the tough training that he had to put his players through, due to the low level of fitness that he found when he joined, meant the players ran out of the steam at the end of the season. Whatever the reasons, the season was plain bad. 

5. 2014/15 Season

As a sign of how quickly expectations had fallen since the horror show of David Moyes’ failed season at the club, United were keen to bring in an experienced winner who could get them back into the top four. Many fans wanted to see Giggs get his chance after his interim period but just before the 2014 World Cup, Louis van Gaal, then manager of the Netherlands, was announced as manager. United fans sat back to watch how the Netherlands would play in Brazil. To everyone’s delight, it was very good. In fact, it was better then very good. They made it to the semi-finals, playing some excellent football and Van Gaal seemed to know exactly how to get the best out of Robin van Persie, who wasn’t at his very best during the season before. One of the highlights that lived long in the memory of Van Persie’s diving header and his run to celebrate with his manager. The dream team that United hoped would fire them back to glory was on. 

Then Van Gaal would oversee six wins from six in pre-season, including wins over Inter, Real Madrid and Liverpool. Instead of praying for the top four, United fans were dreaming a lot bigger. The signings needed to bolster a weak looking squad came thick and fast. Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria, Marcus Rojo and Daley Blind all came in and yet the bubble quickly burst. Swansea would again be the opening day fixture, however, this time it was at home and it ended in defeat. United fans were understandably aghast. ‘Even Moyes beat Swansea’ was probably heard in every home of every United fan. Drab draws against Sunderland and then Burnley didn’t do much to allay early fears and when they lost to Leicester City, they had one win in five and were sitting twelfth. Throw in the League Cup humiliation, losing 4-0 to League One MK Dons, and United fans were wondering what had happened to their side in such a short period of time. 

There were bright moments in the season. A league double over Liverpool is always celebrated as is putting four goals past Manchester City. They would only lose two league games between the 8 November and the 18 April. By then they were comfortably in the Champions League spots, but one win in the last six left a sour taste in the mouths and dampened spirits a little going into the summer break. However, being back in the Champions League will have been the minimum target when appointing the Dutchmen and it couldn’t be any worse than the debacle the season before. 

4. 2015/16 Season

It is interesting to hear what is considered a successful season. Fans will likely deliberate this for the rest of time. It could probably be called the Arsenal conundrum. Arsene Wenger’s last few seasons at Arsenal would see them quality for the Champions League and that would be a success. If they could win a cup, then that would be the added bonus. However, many fans believe that the league is more important than the cup. That aiming for fourth place is not good enough. Your write has always tended to agree with that; however, I will probably contradict myself in this remaining article and that starts here. This season would see United lift their first piece of silverware in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era. (sorry Mourinho, the Community Shield doesn’t count). If there was ever a season that constituted as ‘one step forward, two steps back’ it was this one. More signings were made. Memphis Depay was exciting. Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and serial winner Bastian Schweinsteiger bolstered the squad and the arrival of unheralded 18-year old Anthony Martial caught everyone off guard. 

In the league United would not win more than three games in a row but would complete another league double over Liverpool. The home win would see the arrival Martial, with that stunning solo goal and his form would continue to be the brightest of sparks throughout the season, finishing United’s top goal scorer. However, Liverpool would knock them out of the Europa League as United exited their return to the Champions League at the Group Stage. A group stage that should have been easy to advance from. 

Whilst the signing of Martial paid off, the Depay arrival hadn’t gone as well, and Van Gaal remained under pressure throughout the season. Losing to West Ham in their final game at Upton Park, handed the initiative to rivals City in the race for fourth place and with the goal difference being so far in City’s advantage, there win on the final game of the season consigned United to another spell in the Europa League. Heading into the FA Cup final, the impression was that if United won, Van Gaal would get another year. They did win. An extra-time win over Crystal Palace, however, Van Gaal didn’t get another year. Even worse, he was sacked immediately after the cup win. It is something that Van Gaal hasn’t let go to this day, however the football that season was poor. At points the fans were booing when United passed back to David De Gea in goal. Just 49 goals were scorer in the league, and it was clear that Van Gaal was no longer the right fit. The FA Cup though did make it a slightly better season then his first, by virtue of it being United’s first silverware for three years. 

3. 2019/20 Season

The last three seasons is where my contradiction kicks in. Last season was another strange season for United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was entering the season on the back of those shocking performances against Cardiff and Huddersfield. The defence that had been so poor the season before, was bolstered by the signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The season started so well. A 4-0 win over Chelsea with Maguire winning Man of the Match signalling hope that United were finally on the right track. As has been so often, it was a false dawn. United would only win one of their next eight games leaving them down in 14th place. After draws to newly promoted sides, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, Solskjaer was seemingly on the brink. Back to back wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City gave eased the pressure once more, pressure that would be back just a month after. Four defeats in the next eight games, culminating in defeat to Burnley at Old Trafford, looked the end for Solskjaer. Enter Bruno Fernandes. 

One signing transformed the side. Despite drawing with Wolves in his first game, a result that left them in seventh place, United would go undefeated for the rest of the season, either side of the break for the pandemic. They would end up finishing third, hugely important after failing the season in their quest for Champions League football. The 14 games unbeaten should have given reason for optimism heading into the new season, but failings in the semi-finals of all cups they were involved in left a sour taste in some fan’s mouths. The last being the Europa League, played over one leg because of the aforementioned pandemic, that they were expected to win. However, they looked tired as the season ended and the defeat to Sevilla meant the wait for Solskjaer first trophy would head into the next season. 

Some will argue that this season isn’t much different to this season and Van Gaal’s fourth place season. Both secured Champions League football, but when you factor in the three semi-finals and second half of season form, then it warrants it’s place high on the list. 

2. 2016/17 Season

The final two seasons are where the contradictions can get tricky. Jose Mourinho was a problem that the United board didn’t know how to solve. The born winner in Mourinho came out this season. In his first season he was backed. Paul Pogba returned to the club. A centre back, Eric Bailly, was signed. He was needed. Henrikh Mkhitaryan signed from Dortmund and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined on a free transfer. Big statement signings. Big statement signings that saw three wins in a row to start the season. Excitement started building. Whilst Mourinho had been sacked from Chelsea, he was still seen a winner who would bring success to any club he took over. As seems to be the trend when the excitement levels build, United would win just one of their next six games, losing three. United wouldn’t lose again in the league until May. So United were surely in the title hunt? No defeat in six months? They must have been. Unfortunately, not. United could not win games. They would draw 15 times. Many against teams they should have beaten, including Stoke (twice), Burnley, Hull, West Brom and Swansea. United would finish sixth. Worse than both seasons under Van Gaal. They were in the hunt for the Champions League, but just one win in their final six games laid rest to that. 

Mourinho didn’t care though. He had the back up of the Europa League. United had already won the League Cup, three wins in a row now at Wembley, including the Community Shield (sorry Mourinho, still not a trophy). However, the Europa League was a big trophy now that it was his only route into the Champions League. Of course, his United side would win. Mourinho would run onto the pitch waving three fingers, in reference to his three trophies (yes, he included the Community Shield). 

This season, in league terms, wasn’t great. However, it was a return to the Champions League and a return to multiple trophy wins, and many believed that with this success, United could go on to bigger and better things, after all, Mourinho always wins the league after two seasons in charge.

1. 2017/18 Season

Alas, he wouldn’t win the title. He wouldn’t even win a trophy. So how does this rank as the best season you may ask? 

Well Mourinho himself called finishing second, with the squad he had, his best achievement. Things started to sour a little. Ibrahimovic was still out injured with the serious knee injury he had sustained in the season prior, so Romelu Lukaku was brought in for £74 million. Lindelof was also brought in, in hope that he would form a title winning partnership with Eric Bailly, who had been so impressive in his debut season. Many saw Nemanja Matic as the final piece of Mourinho’s puzzle, when Chelsea let him go. In reality, despite finishing second, United never really got close to Manchester City. The signing of Alexis Sanchez at Christmas, designed to put United in position to challenge the season after, will live long in the memory of all United fans. And not for positive reasons. He was a disaster for the rest of the season and for the rest of his United career. Losing in the final of the FA Cup, led some to think that Mourinho should go the same way as Van Gaal. The football wasn’t much better, and Van Gaal only had one trophy less than Mourinho when you match up their seasons. Of course, you’re not going to sack a manager after a second-place finish.  

The league should always be a priority. This is the season that United finished closest to top spot. For United fans it is a sad reality, however, it is the best season that United have had. The current United side have a chance to leapfrog all of these seasons and for United fans, the thought of title number 21 lingers on their mind almost every day. 

Written by Huw Rawlings

Ratings: Pogba’s finish was fantastic, Greenwood’s was Van Persie-esque, Rashford scored tenth goal in Hammers victory

Manchester United beat West Ham United 3-1 in the Premier League at the London Stadium on Saturday evening. It was a dire first half for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side as the Hammers were all over United and looked the better team. Tomas Soucek opened the scoring in the 38th minute of the match. In the second half, a stunning strike from Paul Pogba in the 65th minute, a sublime Mason Greenwood strike three minutes later turned United’s fortunes around. Marcus Rashford hit the post minutes before scoring his tenth goal of the season. United have a tough match against RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday.

It was another one of those matches for United. Nothing was fitting together and the players looked inept at times. They were poor with possession from the start of the match. United had a few opportunities in the first half but did not really take them. In the 38th minute of the match, the Hammers opened the scoring – and they have been on the cusp of doing that for the majority of the half. Declan Rice flicked a corner kick into the near post and Tomas Soucek bundled the ball over the line from close-range. United seemed to appeal for offside but the appeal was waved off by the referee. United had been dire in the match and needed to improve.

At the start of the second half Solskjaer made a double substitution with Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes replacing Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek with United trailing 1-0 and needing to get back into the match. Anthony Martial seemed uneasy on his feet around the hour mark of the match and seemed unable to continue. He was replaced by Juan Mata in the 62nd minute. United got themselves back into the game three minutes later after Paul Pogba thundered an equaliser into the back of the net after Dean Henderson launched the ball up field to Fernandes who assisted the Frenchman.

David Moyes felt that the ball went out of play but VAR gave the goal so United were back in the game. Fast forward another three minutes and Mason Greenwood, assisted by Alex Telles got United ahead in the match with a sublime finish, taking a touch before firing into the back of the net in a way similar to that of Robin van Persie. United were 2-1 after a dire first half. Marcus Rashford then got through on goal, beating his man and the goalkeeper but hitting the post, which was unfortunate. In the 78th minute, Rashford got his 10th goal of the season with a sublime finish, pushing the Hammers aside after a poor first half.

Over the 90 minutes of the match, United were poor but coming back in the second half, the way that they did shows that there is something there for this team to build on. The fact that they can play terribly and find the goal needed to overturn their opposition is a good foundation. United have a difficult week ahead of them with a trip to RB Leipzig in the Champions League of which they will need at least a draw to qualify the the round of 16 in the competition. Then they face Manchester City in the first Manchester derby of the season at Old Trafford, which will be an important match. To top that, United are now fourth in the league.

Manchester United

26 Dean Henderson

Unlucky to have conceded the opening goal at the end of the first half. Made some important saves and interceptions. His quick thinking created a chance for United to equalise, lofting the ball up field to Fernandes, who assisted for Pogba. A cracking first start in the Premier League for him.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did not have the best performance and despite a good tackle on Bowen, he needs to find a way to offer what United need. He's a good defender, and granted, the whole team was off in the first half, but like his teammates, he improved in the second half.

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2 Victor Lindelof

The Iceman seemed uncomfortable against the Hammers, which was there to be seen by anyone. That wained in the second half as United gained more confidence from an equaliser and a winner minutes later, not to mention a third goal to give a two-goal cushion.

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5 Harry Maguire

Did not defend at the level he's capable of, especially in the first half. Allowed Haller to get though with the Hammers 1-0 up. In the second half, he improved greatly, as did his teammates, and helped them get the victory.

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27 Alex Telles

He will not want to see a replay of what Bowen did to him, which will perhaps show him areas of improvement for the future. He assist for Greenwood's goal was good to see and will raise his confidence.

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6 Paul Pogba

After stuttering in the match, he pulled it out of the bag and scored a long-range effort to level the score in the 65th minute of the match. If he keeps playing like that, he will gain some respect from those who criticise him (including myself) for the poor performances he has put in this season.

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39 Scott McTominay

Did a job in midfield and his passion and ability on Ann off the ball were well rewarded with his team *eventually* finding their feet and getting three goals into the back of the net.

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34 Donny van de Beek

The Dutchman did a bit in midfield for United but without Fernandes, creativity seemed to be an issue. His hold up play was good and he got involved but United needed a change. Fernandes replaced him at the start of the second half.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Put United ahead in the 68th minute of the match, three minutes after the equaliser with a sublime finish from a Telles assist. He took a touch before finding the back of the net akin to Robin van Persie.

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21 Edinson Cavani

In the first half of the match the Uruguayan did not seem to be getting much done. United were dire and the Hammers opened the scoring in the 38th minute of the match, despite having many chances before that. Cavani was replaced by Rashford at the start of the second half.

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9 Anthony Martial

Did not seem to get involved in good sense. Led the line in the second half but seemed to get injured and was replaced by Mata. Not a good few weeks for the Frenchman who is out of form once again.

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Substitutes

10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Cavani 46'. Got his tenth goal of the season in the 78th minute after hitting the post minutes earlier. Seems to he heading into a period of form again, which is a good thing.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Replaced Van de Beek 46'. Got another assist under his belt after Solskjaer brought him on to change the tide for United, which he did. A cracking player but also one that needs to be rested from time to time to stop him from burning out.

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8 Juan Mata

Replaced Martial 62'. Got himself another assist this season, providing the pass for Rashford's tenth goal of the season. A good performance from the Spanish magician.

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Goals: Tomas Soucek 38′; Paul Pogba 65′, Mason Greenwood 68′, Marcus Rashford 78′

Assists: Declan Rice 38′; Bruno Fernandes 65′, Alex Telles 68′, Juan Mata 78′

Manchester United: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Pogba, McTominay, Van de Beek (Fernandes 46′); Greenwood, Cavani (Rashford 46′), Martial (Mata 62′)

Substitutes Not Used: Grant; Williams, Tuanzebe; Matic

Bookings: N/A

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Henderson, Pogba, Van de Beek, Greenwood and Cavani start against West Ham United

Manchester United are on the road again in the Premier League as they face West Ham United at the London Stadium this evening. The Hammers played on Monday evening, beating Aston Villa 2-1 and will have had at least four days to rest ahead of their next match whilst United played on both Sunday, beat Southampton 3-2 and on Wednesday, losing 3-1 to PSG, giving them just two days of rest ahead of the match. This can be seen as both positive and negative with United’s fitness possibly being higher than the Hammers, but fatigue could also kick in for United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to rotate his squad a little to continue throughout the month with seven more matches to be played before the end of the year which will see United finding out their fate in the Champions League and the Carabao Cup on their quest for trophies. David Moyes will also be seeking to get the better of United once again after his dire nine-month spell at the club. Solskjaer’s side will need to be at their best to take on the Hammers, who have been playing some good football. United also need to keep one eye on Tuesday’s match away to RB Leipzig – avoiding defeat there will see United remain in the Champions League.

Manchester United:

Henderson;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles;

Pogba, McTominay, Van de Beek;

Greenwood, Cavani, Martial

Substitutes:

Grant; Williams, Tuanzebe; Mata, Fernandes, Matic; Rashford

West Ham United:

Fabianski;

Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell;

Masuaku, Rice, Soucek, Bowen;

Fornals, Haller

Substitutes:

Randolph; Diop, Johnson, Noble, Snodgrass, Lanzini, Benrahma

United and the Hammers have played a total of 48 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 28, the Hammers have won seven with both teams drawing 13 times. United have scored 95 goals against the Hammers; winning five penalties, scoring four of them. The Hammers have scored 44 goals against United; winning three penalties, scoring all of them. United have kept a clean sheet 18 times with the Hammers keeping seven. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 58 yellow cards and four red cards whereas the Hammers have been shown 72 yellow cards and two red cards.

In this fixture last season, which was played on the 22 July 2020, it was a 1-1 draw between the two sides at the London Stadium with Michail Antonio opening the scoring from the penalty spot in added time at the end of the first half and Mason Greenwood equalising in the 51st minute of the match, assisted by Anthony Martial. At Old Trafford in a match which was played on the 22 September 2019, the Hammers won 2-0 with Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scoring the goals in either half to take all three points in the match, United will need to be in good form against the Hammers, who are doing well this season.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Cavani, Greenwood, Fernandes and Martial to lead the attack against the Hammers? Van de Beek to partner McTominay in midfield?

Manchester United are on the road again in the Premier League this weekend as they face West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday evening. The Hammers played on Monday evening, beating Aston Villa 2-1 and will have had at least four days to rest ahead of their next match whilst United played on both Sunday, beat Southampton 3-2 and on Wednesday, losing 3-1 to PSG, giving them just two days of rest ahead of the match. This can be seen as both positive and negative with United’s fitness possibly being higher than the Hammers, but fatigue could also kick in for United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to rotate his squad a little to continue throughout the month with seven more matches to be played before the end of the year which will see United finding out their fate in the Champions League and the Carabao Cup on their quest for trophies. David Moyes will also be seeking to get the better of United once again after his dire nine-month spell at the club. Solskjaer’s side will need to be at their best to take on the Hammers, who have been playing some good football. United also need to keep one eye on Tuesday’s match away to RB Leipzig – avoiding defeat there will see United remain in the Champions League.

How United have faired against West Ham United in the Premier League.

United and the Hammers have played a total of 48 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 28, the Hammers have won seven with both teams drawing 13 times. United have scored 95 goals against the Hammers; winning five penalties, scoring four of them. The Hammers have scored 44 goals against United; winning three penalties, scoring all of them. United have kept a clean sheet 18 times with the Hammers keeping seven. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 58 yellow cards and four red cards whereas the Hammers have been shown 72 yellow cards and two red cards.

In this fixture last season, which was played on the 22 July 2020, it was a 1-1 draw between the two sides at the London Stadium with Michail Antonio opening the scoring from the penalty spot in added time at the end of the first half and Mason Greenwood equalising in the 51st minute of the match, assisted by Anthony Martial. At Old Trafford in a match which was played on the 22 September 2019, the Hammers won 2-0 with Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scoring the goals in either half to take all three points in the match, United will need to be in good form against the Hammers, who are doing well this season.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face West Ham United in the Premier League at the London Stadium on Saturday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

Despite conceding three goals against PSG, the Spanish goalkeeper put in a good performance and made a few good saves to keep United in the match. Against Southampton on Sunday, De Gea came off due to an injury to his knee, which he seemed to recover from but showed signs of strain on Wednesday evening against PSG. If fit, he would be the best option against the Hammers but Dean Henderson will do his best if he gets the opportunity once again. United have two positive goalkeepers and with Henderson pushing De Gea, it could turn into something good for United as they have struggled with goalkeepers in the past.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles

The defence is an area that will require some work during the January transfer window, if United are going to be active. Victor Lindelof’s performance against PSG was poor at times and I think that with Eric Bailly back from injury and Axel Tuanzebe able to play against the Hammers, after suspension against PSG, there are two other options to partner Harry Maguire. I think Tuanzebe will be that man. Alex Telles and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will play in the fullback positions against West Ham with United needing to put in a defensive performance to get the better of the London club this weekend.

Midfield Two: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay

I was not all that impressed by Fred against PSG. He lost his head and was given the chance to redeem himself but ended up getting sent off. Many will blame Solskjaer for that, but Fred is responsible for his own actions. He let his teammates, the manager, the coaches and the supporters down with his actions. Because of his actions, he should be dropped. He cannot keep doing things like that. Donny van de Beek should take his place in the centre of midfield with Scott McTominay keeping his place. He rose in stature against PSG. Never let Neymar get away with his pathetic acting and always put in the effort, which is great to see.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial

This is an area where United need to perform much better. Against PSG, Bruno Fernandes had a poor game based on his standards and that led to criticism of him too. He’s been the player to set the standards at the club the season and some seem to expect Man of the Match performances all of the time, which is not going to happen. Mason Greenwood could be recalled on the right-wing with Anthony Martial playing on the left-wing. Both players will need to perform to the best of their abilities with Martial aiming to finish his chances much better than he did against PSG, which was a poor performance for him.

Forward: Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani has earned himself his stripes at United so far this season, despite playing a minor role compared to some of his teammates. He was unfortunate not to have scored against his former club on Wednesday evening, chipping the goalkeeper but hitting the crossbar. Some criticised the player for doing that but if he had scored it, the criticism would have not happened. On the other hand, if he’d tried to round the keeper and score and miss, the criticism would still be there, probably moaning about the fact he could have chipped the keeper. You can’t with with these moaning fans nowadays.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Brandon Williams; Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford

Back to three substitutes in the Premier League, Solskjaer might not be able to rotate many players with the threat of the Hammer on the horizon. United will need a victory to keep rising in the league table and after a defeat, a win will restore confidence. Dean Henderson will most likely be on the bench in this match, unless De Gea is unable to play, which could be a possibility, keeping him fit for Tuesday. In defence, Eric Bailly and Brandon Williams could be there if needed. In midfield, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic could offer something with Marcus Rashford the only attacking player on the bench.

Written by John Walker

Preview: West Ham United -v- Manchester United – Premier League

West Ham United -v- Manchester United

Premier League

London Stadium, London

Saturday 5 December 2020, KO 17:30 GMT

Referee: Andre Marriner Assistants: Simon Long, Eddie Smart

Fourth Official: Andy Madley

VAR: Lee Mason Assistant VAR: Adrian Holmes

Manchester United are on the road again in the Premier League this weekend as they face West Ham United at the London Stadium on Saturday evening. The Hammers played on Monday evening, beating Aston Villa 2-1 and will have had at least four days to rest ahead of their next match whilst United played on both Sunday, beat Southampton 3-2 and on Wednesday, losing 3-1 to PSG, giving them just two days of rest ahead of the match. This can be seen as both positive and negative with United’s fitness possibly being higher than the Hammers, but fatigue could also kick in for United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to rotate his squad a little to continue throughout the month with seven more matches to be played before the end of the year which will see United finding out their fate in the Champions League and the Carabao Cup on their quest for trophies. David Moyes will also be seeking to get the better of United once again after his dire nine-month spell at the club. Solskjaer’s side will need to be at their best to take on the Hammers, who have been playing some good football. United also need to keep one eye on Tuesday’s match away to RB Leipzig – avoiding defeat there will see United remain in the Champions League.

Manchester United: LWWWWL

Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 L, Southampton 3-2 W, Istanbul Basaksehir 4-1 W, West Bromwich Albion 1-0 W, Everton 3-1 W, Istanbul Basaksehir 2-1 L

West Ham United: WWWLDD

Aston Villa 2-1 W, Sheffield United 1-0 W, Fulham 1-0 W, Liverpool 2-1 L, Manchester City 1-1 D, Tottenham Hotspur 3-3 D

Top Scorers: Bruno Fernandes (10) and Marcus Rashford (nine) leading with their goalscoring for United this season. Sébastien Haller (six) and Jarred Bowen (four) are the top scorers for the Hammers.

Manchester United Goals: 10 – Bruno Fernandes, 9 – Marcus Rashford, 3 – Edinson Cavani, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, 1 – Own Goal, Daniel James, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

United were on a good path before their defeat to PSG on Wednesday evening, winning their last four matches in a row. The defeat is not the end of the world though as they sit at the top of their group in the Champions League and require a point to qualify for the round of 16 stage of the competition. It is important that United keep winning in the Premier League though, aiming to better their league position whilst entering a busy period of the season. United sit in ninth place currently, which will change before they face the Hammers but are a point behind the London club. It is important to win this match and keep winning.

West Ham United Goals: 6 – Sébastien Haller, 4 – Jarrod Bowen, 3 – Michail Antonio, 2 – Pablo Fornals, Robert Snodgrass, Andriy Yarmolenko, 1 – Felipe Anderson, Fabián Balbuena, Manuel Lanzini, Angelo Ogbonna, Tomas Soucek

The Hammers have started well this season and sit in the top five in the Premier League, albeit just a point clear of United, who have a game in hand over all of the clubs above them. In the last six matches, the Hammers have won three times, drawn twice and lost once. It is early days to suggest that David Moyes’ side will continue to challenge for a top four place this season and it is too soon to suggest United wouldn’t. December is going to be a tough month for many clubs with those in Europe and in the Carabao Cup likely to play at most nine times. The Hammers have six matches to play making it easier for them.

Team News: Just one confirmed injury for United and one player out for the Hammers. Can Marcus Rashford recover from a shoulder injury ahead of this clash in London with United seeking to beat the Hammers for the first time since April 2019.

Phil Jones (knee) is the only player that is currently ruled out through injury this weekend. Luke Shaw (thigh) has a 25% chance of featuring against West Ham on Saturday and Marcus Rashford (shoulder) has a 75% chance of featuring against the Hammers. Axel Tuanzebe will be available after sitting out the 3-1 defeat to PSG through suspension and Eric Bailly could well be back in action after recovering from injury himself. United won the last four matches prior to the defeat to the French champions and will need to return to winning ways against the Hammers, having not beaten them at all last season.

Andriy Yarmolenko tested positive for coronavirus during the international break and because of this he has a 25% chance of featuring for his club. The rules suggest that he would need to test negative to the virus before he can return to training. This may well happen in the coming days but it would seem unlikely that he would be fit enough to feature against United this weekend. This is the only issue that the Hammer have ahead of the clash against United, which will see David Moyes face his former club and seeking to keep his club in good form this season. West Ham sit fifth in the league with 17 points – United in ninth with 16 points.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani to keep his place as United’s main striker? Bruno Fernandes to battle back from inconsistent performance against PSG? Donny van de Beek to return to the starting XI once again?

Solskjaer will be seeking to overcome the 3-1 defeat to PSG on Wednesday evening and get back to winning ways in the Premier League against West Ham United, who they have not beaten since the 2018/19 season. I expect David De Gea to start in goal despite looking uncomfortable against PSG at times. If he is not fit, Dean Henderson will be a capable option. In defence, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles should all start. Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay in midfield with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial playing behind Edinson Cavani.

Match Prediction: 48 matches player between United and the Hammers in the Premier League with United winning 28 times and the Hammers winning seven times – United need a good result.

United and the Hammers have played a total of 48 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 28, the Hammers have won seven with both teams drawing 13 times. United have scored 95 goals against the Hammers; winning five penalties, scoring four of them. The Hammers have scored 44 goals against United; winning three penalties, scoring all of them. United have kept a clean sheet 18 times with the Hammers keeping seven. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 58 yellow cards and four red cards whereas the Hammers have been shown 72 yellow cards and two red cards.

In this fixture last season, which was played on the 22 July 2020, it was a 1-1 draw between the two sides at the London Stadium with Michail Antonio opening the scoring from the penalty spot in added time at the end of the first half and Mason Greenwood equalising in the 51st minute of the match, assisted by Anthony Martial. At Old Trafford in a match which was played on the 22 September 2019, the Hammers won 2-0 with Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scoring the goals in either half to take all three points in the match, United will need to be in good form against the Hammers, who are doing well this season.

West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

Where Are They Now? Adnan Januzaj – Cristiano Ronaldo comparisons suggested he was the boy that could do anything

Nine years ago, Manchester United signed 16-year-old Adnan Januzaj from Anderlecht after impressing in a skills session in Brussels, Belgium. After a seemingly glittering career in the academy at United, Januzaj was promoted to the first team during the 2012/13 season, which was also Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at the club before retirement. Januzaj never featured inn the first team for Ferguson but was an unused substitute in his final game as United manager, a 5-5 draw with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.

For his performances for the then U21s, now the U23s, Januzaj was awarded the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award for the 2012/13 season. Under the management of David Moyes, despite this being his ill-fated season at the Old Trafford club, Januzaj kept his place in the first team squad, playing in the pre-season tour of Asia, scoring in the final tour match against Kitchee. In Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial at Old Trafford, Januzaj started, assisting United’s only goal in the 3-1 defeat to Sevilla.

In his debut season at the club, which was also his best in terms of bringing something to the team, Januzaj played 35 times in all competitions, scoring four goals and six assists – United only won the FA Community Shield that season, seeing Moyes sacked at Easter time and finishing seventh in the Premier League – the worst season to date. Ryan Giggs was the caretaker manager for the final four matches of the season with Louis van Gaal installed as the permanent manager during the summer, prior to the 2014/15 season, which needed to be a good one for United.

Januzaj only played 21 times that season, failing to score a single goal or assist, at least in the first team. Januzaj was loaned to Borussia Dortmund for the 2015/16 season, but after 12 appearances for the club, with no goals and three assists to his name, his loan spell was ended on the 6 January 2016 and he returned to United. He played seven times for United, scoring one goal and it was starting to look like the end of the road for the player at United.

During the 2016/17 season, Januzaj was loaned to Sunderland for the entire season, linking up with Moyes. Despite playing 28 times for the first team, the Belgian scored just one goal, assisting three times for the club. It was clear that Moyes rated the player but his lack of performances on loan would not keep him at United. In the summer of 2017, Januzaj signed a five-year contract with La Liga side Real Sociedad. It was a shame to see another bright youngster leave United, especially after periods of promise.

With United still reeling from the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo at the time he broke through into the first team, with some comparisons at the time, many were let down. In his debut season (2017/18) in Spain, Januzaj made a total of 35 appearances for the Basque club, scoring four goals and a further six assists, playing in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Europa League. During the 2018/19 season, Januzaj played just 24 times, scoring twice and assisting four more goals for his club.

In the 2019/20 season, which was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Januzaj seems to be finding his feet and showing some promise. In 29 appearances throughout the season, before and after the coronavirus pandemic, the now 25-year-old has scored eight goals, assisting a further four, playing in La Liga and the Copa del Rey. So far, it was the best season of the Belgian’s career and it could be the start of something for the winger. It was a shame he never really made it at United but that does not mean he did not have ability – he had plenty of it. He has two goals in six appearances this season.

Different things happen at different times and people react differently. I am glad his career is seemingly picking up. As yet, it is not yet know whether La Liga will continue this season, if it does, Januzaj will be seeking to pick up where he left off. Real Sociedad were fourth in the league at the time the league was suspended, which could bring riches to the club in the form of European football. Seeing Januzaj shine will make me smile. The boy could do anything, except make it work at United.

Written by John Walker

Player Ratings: United 1-1 West Ham; Greenwood takes tally to 17 this season, Rashford poor

Manchester United drew 1-1 with West Ham United in the final Premier League match at Old Trafford this season. Paul Pogba gave away a penalty with Michail Antonio scored at the end of the first half with Mason Greenwood equalising six minutes into the second half. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not be happy with his team’s performance, which was not as good as it could have been. United have moved up to third this evening but that could change if Chelsea beat Liverpool.

It was a poor first half for United. Solskjaer side had seven shots on goal, three of which were on target with 63.3% possession. United got the ball forward quite a bit but failed to do anything with it. After what we have seen recently, this is poor football. The Hammers won a penalty in added time after Paul Pogba used his hands to defend a free kick. VAR ruled that a penalty was awarded. Michail Antonio scored his eighth goal in six matches for David Moyes’ side. 0-1 at half time.

Solskjaer made a change during the break with Aaron Wan-Bissaka replacing Tim Fosu-Mensah after the Dutchman was booked at the end of the first half. United took five minutes or so to get back into the game from the restart. Mason Greenwood equalised for United, scoring his 17th goal of the season. Pogba started the play, finding Greenwood. The teenager played a simple give-and-go with Anthony Martial, who played the assist for Greenwood to fire low beneath Lukasz Fabianski. 1-1.

Solskjaer made his second and final substitution in the 85th minute of the match with Odion Ighalo replacing Rashford. It came minutes after Bruno Fernandes earned his second booking of the season. United seemed to lack the same force they had at the start of the restart and yet again they did not take advantage of the situation they found themselves in, going for the win and going into the final game inside the top four of the Premier League with a clear advantage.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

The Spanish number one was not really tested against the Hammers but could not save a penalty, which is normal for him.

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Player Ratings: United 1-1 West Ham; Greenwood takes tally to 17 this season, Rashford poor

The Dutchman started at right-back and did not have too bad a game. However, he was booked in the 44th minute of the match which is probably the main concern with him being replaced by Wan-Bissaka during the break.

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2 Victor Lindelof

The Swedish iceman had to be shouted at by De Gea a few times during the match. It makes you wonder what the player is thinking. Granted, United have little choice at this moment in time to not play him but it is clear that he's not the partner that Maguire needs at the club.

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5 Harry Maguire

The captain helped try and shut out the Hammers but they were having too many chance on goal, especially from set-pieces. I feel that he needs a more assured partner in the centre of defence otherwise United are not going to be strong at the back. Stronger but not United strong.

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33 Brandon Williams

It was good to see him start against West Ham but his left-flank was targeted throughout the match. It will be a learning experience for him though

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6 Paul Pogba

The Frenchman has not been the same player for a few matches now. He gave away a penalty at the end of the first half, using his hands to deflect a free-kick. He needs to make up for this one. Pogba helped redeem himself by starting the attack that resulted in Greenwood's equaliser. Needs to be doing more though in this team.

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31 Nemanja Matic

The Serbian veteran midfielder played all, keeping the ball and distributing it to his teammates. It did not work all the time for him and he seemed frustrated at times. United look set to not take another chance they were given, which is a massive shame.

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11 Mason Greenwood

The teenager scored the equaliser for United six minutes into the second half in an attack started by Pogba. Martial provided the assist with the 18-year-old firing under Fabianski.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

The Portuguese midfielder did not have the best of matches in the final Premier League game at Old Trafford. His passing was off and he was booked for an off the ball clash with Noble.

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10 Marcus Rashford

The England forward is not in form right now, not in the first half at least. He can be better than this. He was booked with twenty minutes to go in the second half and still seemed to be out of the game, for what reason I do not know. Rashford was replaced by Ighalo in the 85th minute of the match.

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9 Anthony Martial

The Frenchman provided the assist with United getting back in the game with Greenwood's equaliser. Martial did not seem to be at his best, which is the same for his teammates. On Sunday, they will need to be 100% better than this.

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Substitutes

29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Replaced Fosu-Mensah 46'. The right-back replaced Fosu-Mensah at the start of the second half. He added something to the squad, however, I would have preferred to see him rested for the game though.

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Player Ratings: United 1-1 West Ham; Greenwood takes tally to 17 this season, Rashford poor

Replaced Rashford 85'. The Nigerian almost immediately has a chance on goal, which did not work for United. It was a good start straight from the bench though.

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Goals: Mason Greenwood 51′; Michail Antonio 45+2′ penalty

Assists: Anthony Martial 51′

Manchester United: De Gea; Fosu-Mensah (Wan-Bissaka 46′), Lindelof, Maguire, Williams; Pogba, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford (Ighalo 85′); Martial

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Dalot; Mata, Lingard, Fred, James, McTominay

Bookings: Tim Fosu-Mensah 44′, Marcus Rashford 70′, Bruno Fernandes 81′; Arthur Masuaku 82′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Manchester United v West Ham United; Pogba and Fernandes start

Manchester United return to action against West Ham United in the Premier League this evening after being beaten by Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday evening. This is the final league match at the Theatre of Dreams this season and will be the penultimate match of the season at home. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to get his team firing in this game to stop the Hammer from doing the double over them this season and break into the top four.

If United beat David Moyes’ side, they will rise up to third in the league with Chelsea due to face Liverpool in the later kick off on Wednesday, meaning that they could, if Chelsea beat Liverpool, still be fourth in the league going into the final match of the season against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday. United will not win the FA Cup this season but they should at least ensure UEFA Champions League football.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Fosu-Mensah, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams;

Pogba, Matic;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford;

Martial

Substitutes:

Romero; Dalot, Wan-Bissaka; Mata, Lingard, Fred, James, McTominay; Ighalo

West Ham United:

Fabianski;

Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell;

Soucek, Rice;

Bowen, Noble, Fornals;

Antonio

Substitutes:

Balbuena, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Lanzini, Wilshere, Haller, Masuaku, Randolph, Coventry

United and West Ham have played 47 times in the Premier League with United winning 28, drawing 12 and losing seven times. United have scored 94 goals conceding 43. United have kept 18 clean sheets with the Hammers keeping seven. United have won five penalties, scoring four with the Hammers winning two and scoring both. United have been shown 55 yellow cards with the Hammer having 71. United have had four red cards with the Hammers getting two.

Earlier this season, at the London Stadium, the Hammers beat United 2-0 with Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scoring the goals. It was a tough defeat for United to take and after losing against Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup on Sunday, Solskjaer’s side should be looking to bounce back. In this fixture last season, United won with two Paul Pogba penalties which cancelled out Felipe Anderson’s 49th minute equaliser.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW