West Ham United v Manchester United
The International break couldn’t have come at a better time for United because of the depletion of the squad after the late victory over Bolton.
United had a full first-team out injured – and while some of those players are still missing, the team will be boosted by the returns of captain, Nemanja Vidic and Park Ji-Sung. Vidic hasn’t played since the 2-0 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup and missed the victories over Marseille and Bolton with a calf-strain. After missing Serbia’s triumph over Northern Ireland last Friday, Vidic was fit enough to play in his country’s 1-1 draw against Estonia in Tallinn.
Park hasn’t appeared for The Reds since scoring the winning goal in December’s victory over Arsenal because of his participation in The Asian Cup and a hamstring injury, but is in-line to make a return to the team at Upton Park on Saturday afternoon. His industrious nature could be valuable to United if he lines up against West Ham because of the Hammers’ pressing in midfield.
Anderson could also come back into the squad after 6 weeks out with an injury that he picked up in the FA Cup victory over Crawley Town in February. Anderson’s combative box to box play would be an asset to the team, especially because of the continued absence of Darren Fletcher to a virus. West Ham always raise their game when facing United, and it’s a game where United will need to match West Ham’s tempo and aggression if they’re to get anything from it.
Although Owen Hargreaves’ arm injury isn’t as bad as first reported, it is expected to keep him out for a further couple of weeks and it doesn’t bode well if – in the absence of Hargreaves, Fletcher and potentially Anderson, Gibson and Carrick line-up as deep lying central players against West Ham’s triumvirate of Scott Parker, Thomas Hitzlsperger and Mark Noble.
Who United choose to play up top is also a point of interest. Leading-scorer, Dimitar Berbatov has started just two of the last nine fixtures but came on from the bench to score the winning goal against Bolton last time out. His inclusion depends upon the formation Sir Alex Ferguson chooses to employ and if it’s the anticipated 4-5-1, the Bulgarian will most probably have to be content with a place on the bench. Javier Hernandez’s pace could see the in-form Mexican lead the line, with Wayne Rooney just off him as a trequartista.
In the victory over Bolton after Jonny Evans’ sending-off, Antonio Valencia moved centrally and performed very well. His strength and power may well see the Ecuadorian start as part of a central three with Rooney playing from wide. Fabio da Silva may also get a start after impressing when he replaced Wes Brown in the previously mentioned match. Though the physicality of West Ham’s forward line would mean the inclusion of Brown is preferential, he is struggling to regain fitness.
United’s long unbeaten run in all competitions at the start of the season ended at Upton Park In November with a humiliating 4-0 defeat. Since then, West Ham have kicked on and left the chance to avoid relegation in their hands – losing just one of their last seven League games and finding the net 15 times in their last six fixtures.
United have only won away from home four times in the League this season and with the unavailability of key players, West Ham will sense they have a good chance of taking points off United. However in this fixture last season, with a makeshift team consisting of a back-four of – Fletcher, Neville, Brown, Evra and later Michael Carrick who replaced the injured Neville early-on, United demolished West Ham 4-0.
Referee: Lee Mason
Last five meetings:
30/11/2010 – West Ham 4-0 United
28/08/2010 – United 3-0 West Ham
23/02/2010 – United 3-0 West Ham
05/12/2009 – West Ham 0-4 United
08/02/2009 – West Ham 0-1 United
Possible line-up (note that the midfield will be interchangeable)
1. van der Sar; 20. Fabio, 12. Smalling, 15. Vidic, 3. Evra; 16. Carrick, 13. Park, 25. Valencia, 10. Rooney, 17. Nani; 14. Hernandez