Match Preview: Manchester United vs West Ham United

Manchester United host David MoyesWest Ham United at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. United will be hoping to make it back-to-back Premier League wins after they secured three points against Brentford in midweek.

United beat West Ham in the league back in September, thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jesse Lingard. A dramatic late penalty save by David de Gea ensured United left the London Stadium with all three points.

Form guide

United’s 1-3 win at the Brentford Community Stadium on Wednesday saw Ralf Rangnick’s team put in an impressive second-half performance; the fact all three goal-scorers, Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford, are academy graduates, made the victory even sweeter.

Rangnick changed United’s formation against Brentford, moving away from his favoured 4-2-2-2 to play a 4-3-3. It certainly seemed to benefit United, specifically in the second half and is a system we can probably expect to see against West Ham on Saturday.

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Before United’s trip to London, a disappointing 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa saw the Red Devils throw away a two-goal lead in just five second-half minutes. The second half on Wednesday night was, however, a much better showing from United, and there were certainly positive signs going into Saturday’s game.

Last weekend, Leeds United ended West Ham’s four-game win streak in all competitions. The Hammers were defeated 2-3, despite coming from behind twice in both the first and second half. That was their first defeat of 2022, after previously beating Crystal Palace, Leeds in the FA Cup and Norwich City. They also demolished Watford 1-4 at Vicarage Road in their final fixture of 2021, but the defeat to Leeds on Sunday halted their good run of form.

Team News

Against Brentford, United were boosted by the welcome return of Ronaldo and Rashford, who missed the game against Aston Villa. Both players are in contention to start on Saturday. Harry Maguire was another player who made his return to the matchday squad on Wednesday, coming off the bench in the second half after Rangnick decided to switch to a back three.

Anthony Martial was also included in a matchday squad for the first time under Rangnick but did not make an appearance off the bench.

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However, United will be without Aaron Wan-Bissaka once again this weekend, who is still unwell, and Luke Shaw also misses out against West Ham, which Rangnick confirmed in his press conference on Friday. United’s manager confirmed the fullback pairing would once again be Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles. There are still doubts about the fitness of Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani, but both players seem unlikely to feature at Old Trafford this week.

There is also a doubt around whether Ronaldo will feature, as Rangnick confirmed he was experiencing neck pains. However, he was spotted with the team as they arrived at the hotel yesterday. Jadon Sancho was not spotted with the squad, as Rangnick has granted him personal leave after a death in his family.

Despite returning to contact training this week, Paul Pogba is still not ready to be included in a matchday squad yet, and Rangnick confirmed in his press conference it will be after the winter break before Pogba is fit enough to feature for United again.

Hannibal and Eric Bailly are both still at AFCON, with their nations, Tunisia and Ivory Coast respectively, both qualifying for the next round of the tournament.

West Ham are without defenders Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma for their trip to Old Trafford. Ogbonna will miss the rest of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered against Liverpool in November. A hamstring injury for Zouma will keep him out until after the winter break. Mark Noble is also missing for West Ham this weekend with a knee injury.

There are also question marks over Said Benrahma’s availability. The 26-year-old has also been at AFCON with Algeria, but they crashed out at the group stages of the tournament on Thursday. Benrahma could well be back in time to play some part in Saturday’s game.

Ones to watch

Anthony Elanga has started United’s last two games, against Aston Villa and Brentford. The Swedish winger took his chance on Wednesday night, scoring an excellent goal to put United ahead in the second half. His impressive first touch meant he had a simple header from a few yards out to cap off an impressive goal.

Elanga is a fearless player who always looks to beat a defender and create a goalscoring opportunity, either for himself or a teammate. He often makes intelligent runs in behind the opposition defence, something which led to his goal against Brentford. The 19-year-old certainly plays like someone who has started more than just a handful of league games, and is an exciting prospect.

United midfielder Scott McTominay was another player who put in an exceptional performance against Brentford. The 25-year-old was everywhere in midfield, often putting in strong challenges and coming away with the ball. He also played a big part in Mason Greenwood’s goal. McTominay won the ball back in midfield, before finding Ronaldo with an excellent pass, which was chested down to Bruno Fernandes by the Portugal captain.

McTominay is a player who Rangnick clearly rates, and he has the opportunity to get on a good run of form. The Scot has put in some strong performances in recent weeks, which has seen him have a major impact in the midfield, as well as finding the back of the net on more than one occasion.

Arguably West Ham’s biggest threat is former Hull City player Jarrod Bowen. The winger has six goals and nine assists in the Premier League this season and has been in some excellent form of late. He has four goals in his last three games, including a brace against the struggling Norwich City, and is a threat to opposition defenders when cutting inside onto his left foot. Although currently uncapped by England, there have been people suggesting that Bowen should be named in Gareth Southgate’s next squad.  

Predicted line-up

David de Gea;

Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Raphaël Varane, Alex Telles;

Fred, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes;

Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga.

A big 10 days ahead

Saturday’s game is a big one in the race for the top four this season. Three points against the Hammers would see United leapfrog Moyes’ side and climb to fourth in the table, until at least Sunday. If results go United’s way, the Red Devils could head into the winter break occupying a Champions League spot.

Away from the game on Saturday, the January transfer window slams shut on the 31st of this month. So far, United are yet to do business of any kind, but there are some potential outgoings on the cards. There are areas of the squad that need strengthening, and we could well see United do a deal or two, as the games keep on coming thick and fast.  

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