United play the Hammers in a game that has greater significance for the players in claret and blue, although that is unlikely to be a reason for our manager to let the players relax. He has stated clearly that he wouldn’t want to show disrespect for the other teams involved in a relegation scrap and treat this game like a title decider, well almost (I added the title decider bit).
So expect Sir Alex to field a mostly full strength side, in a game that would surely have a carnival atmosphere in the stands as fans would come to expect a display of the trophy with the game as a backdrop. But well, after the damp squib that was the Chelsea game, we have come to realize how bad it feels being a Chelsea fan. Seriously, I wonder if the Chelsea fans felt quite as satisfied about their last two titles as much as we’ve felt this season, with the kind of football they played en route to their titles.
Anyway, back to the game, I expect Smith to be paired with Rooney in attack. (Please no Ole this time.) Ronaldo and Giggs will start on the wings while Carrick and Scholes will take their places in midfield. In defence, (yep, you guessed right) Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra will take their customary places forming the first choice XI that swept their way to the title in such style. Hopefully they sign off just as they started off on that day against Fulham.
However, trust the Hammers to be more determined than they’ve been all season. They will fight to the death (not literally, of course) and they would be even more determined than last time in December, when a Reo Coker goal was enough to beat us in Curbishley’s first game in charge.
Among the players to look out for will be Carlos Tevez. The Argentinian has so conveniently run into the sort of form he was billed to exhibit when he first arrived at Upton Park, but couldn’t until now. Fishy, I must say! And West Ham aren’t playing well of late just because of Tevez, the quier resurgence of the midfield generals, namely Nigel Reo Coker and Hayden Mullins have also played a big part.
Anyway, what do I care! A repeat of the Fulham performance should see them through conveniently.
United to win: 2-0.
United’s Likely starting XI: van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Smith, Rooney.