“The secret to beating Man Utd is to score one more goal than them”, said a cheeky Avram Grant at his press conference on Friday, but the last time Man Utd were at Upton Park, his team did much more than that.
They romped to a 4-0 win, with poor Jonny Evans (who starts his 3-match ban on Saturday) having an absolute shocker of a game.
Man Utd begins a gruelling run of 7 matches in 22 days with a visit to a rejuvenated West Ham. Utd lead the title race, 5 points ahead of Arsenal and 9 ahead of Chelsea (don’t write the Blues off!) having played a game more while West Ham languish in 17th and are involved in a tight relegation battle.
But the form table tells a different story.
Based on their last 6 games, West Ham are flying high in 5th place while Man Utd are a poor 9th with 3 recent defeats. West Ham’s attacking trio of Cole, Ba and Obinna have been very impressive lately and should create plenty of problems for our back-four whilst Parker and Hitzlsperger can certainly hold their own in midfield.
West Ham have indeed looked very dangerous recently and the fact that they are fighting relegation should make them very tough opposition. Utd’s injury list is another factor which makes the trip to the East End a little more daunting, particularly because it is heavily skewed towards the defence. Along with the suspended Evans, Ferdinand (although not for long), O’Shea, Brown and Rafael are all out injured, although Vidic should provide some respite at the back. We can still put out a very good defence, but this is not the ideal time to have so many defenders out, especially with Chelsea coming up in the Champions League on Tuesday.
If you take into account all of the above, I think the Upton Park meeting is probably our hardest league game of the remaining season. True, we still have to play Arsenal at the Emirates and Chelsea at home, but it’s them rather than us who have to do the catching up. However, we can’t allow ourselves any slip-ups elsewhere and an in-form relegation candidate is not going to roll over for us at this stage of the season.
I do have faith in our attack to get us through a potentially torrid afternoon in London, but then, this is Man Utd we are talking about. We always tend to do things the hard way.
United last 6: WLLWWW
West Ham last 6: DWWWLD
Our last meeting was one to forget as an inexperienced United team were humbled 4-0 in the Carling Cup in November. Former United player Jonathan Spector grabbed an unlikely brace as did Carlton Cole as Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling were given a harsh lesson on a snowy night at Upton Park.
This tie last year:
Like this tie last year Manchester United went to Upton Park in the grip of an injury crisis but were in no mood to play around as we hammered the Hammers 4-0. Scholes opened the scoring with the last kick of the first half and goals from Gibson, Valencia and Rooney sealed the tie as we kept up the pressure on Chelsea.
Days later we travelled to Germany to play Wolfsburg in the Champions League a tie we won 3-0 so with the game this situation mirror the tie last year would it be too much to ask for a repeat? Batter West Ham 4-0 then go on and win the subsequent Champions League tie 3-0 away? Extremely unlikely but we can dream…
Katie Taylor? Going wild you say?