For both teams competing tonight, the season has petered out somewhat in recent weeks. West Ham are luxuriating in the comfort of mid table, neither worrying by relegation nor threatening a late assault on the European places. Whilst this winding down has been a massive positive for West Ham fans, it has been anti-climatic for Manchester United’s, after crashing out of two cup competitions and having sewn up the title weeks ago. Now the aim is to create a dazzling title procession, but will this be enough motivation to defeat a solid West Ham side?
Robin van Persie finally found some joy in front of goal on the weekend, and will likely start up front having already scored against West Ham twice this season, in the FA Cup and the league. Tom Cleverley could come into midfield, pushing Wayne Rooney into a his more traditional attacking position, but as ever with Sir Alex’s teams, predicting the team is as easy as predicting when the ever-green septuagenarian will retire. What is certain is that Ashley Young is still out, along with Darren Fletcher.
For West Ham, Andy Carroll will lead the line, with Kevin Nolan backing him up. Further back, however, the defence is causing manager, Sam Allardyce, plenty of issues. James Tomkins, George McCartney and Winston Reid are all doubts, meaning Emanuel Pogatetz could start. This could be a worry, as the Hammers face a team who have scored the most in the Premier League, and over twice as many as themselves.
The main battle for Manchester United will be of an artillery style. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are the two probable centre-backs, and they will have to withstand the tactical bombardment, aimed at causing havoc in the Red Devil’s defence. Not only must they watch the lumbering battering ram of Andy Carroll closely, but they must be aware of Kevin Nolan, the sly fox of a player who thrives off second ball opportunities. Indeed, Nolan is this season’s top scorer for West Ham, with 6 goals. But the Manchester side can be confident, as the survival of the rather tepid Stoke shelling lengthened their clean sheet run away from home in the league to four, with Clint Dempsey’s last minute equaliser at White Hart Lane the last goal to breach David De Gea’s goal. Further hope can be drawn from the fact that the Manchester side have defeated West Ham in 9 of the last 11 fixtures between the two.
If Manchester United’s recent games are anything to go by, this game will fall short of a classic. A combination of a lack of motivation from both teams and some lukewarm attacking form will make for a straightforward away win for Sir Alex’s men. 0-2.