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West Ham vs. Manchester United: Match Preview

Last week sucked. How can the Hammers turn it around against the Red Devils?

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Last weekend against Tottenham sucked, in truth. A 2-1 lead into the last ten minutes at White Heart Lane was stolen late by pure ineptitude for a Spurs 3-2 victory. It leaves the Hammers in 17th place in the Premier League, and it was their fifth away loss in six attempts this season.

The meltdown led to questions over Slaven Bilic’s job security, but the Croatian manager remains confident with his standing at the club, although he admits there is pressure. He can quickly climb the tight Premier League table with a good performance on Sunday, even against the odds.

West Ham are in the midst of a gruesome set of fixtures. Following Tottenham and Manchester United, the Hammers play the Red Devils again in the EFL Cup, before playing Arsenal and Liverpool to open December.

A schedule like that could see the Hammers fall into the relegation zone as Hull City, only a point behind West Ham, and even Sunderland in 19th begin to pick up form.

With that dreary outlook, let’s look forward to what Bilic can do to save West Ham’s season, and his job.

Opponent Outlook:

Manchester United sit in 6th place in the Premier League as Jose Mourinho’s side under performs. Their 19 points from 12 matches is the worst for the club since 2004, when they had 18 points at this stage.

But after a strong victory over Feyenoord on Thursday, the wheels may be turning again. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to return after serving his one-match ban, and Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan impressed. The Red Devils are still without Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling in defense due to injury.

Over the past two months, Manchester United have one Premier League defeat - a 4-0 thrashing from Chelsea. But they only have one win over the same span, drawing four other matches.

Rooney may be getting older, but he is a notorious thorn in West Ham’s side. He has 11 goals and three assists in his last 13 league and cup appearances against the Hammers.

The Attack:

West Ham’s strikers are yet to score a goal in 18 competitive matches this season. Luckily, the injuries keeping strikers on the sidelines seem to be waning. André Ayew and Diafra Sakho have returned, and Andy Carroll recently returned to training, but will not be ready to play yet.

Courtesy of lineupbuilder.com

In that case, Bilic should give the nod to Sakho as a target man, with Dimitri Payet and Ayew on the wings. Sakho looked promising last week against Spurs, and needs match time to get up to full strength. Ayew will benefit from Sakho garnering attention in the box to find space, and Payet will do what he does best: make chances.

The French international has created a league-high 43 goalscoring chances this season, yet West Ham have capitalized on only four of them.

The Midfield:

In this 3-4-3 formation, Manuel Lanzini gets dropped from the side. It’s harsh after the Argentinian converted a penalty against Tottenham, but there is limited room with captain Mark Noble returning from a one-game suspension.

Pedro Obiang should start despite an ankle injury. The Spanish holding midfielder has earned himself a starting place in the West Ham side as one of the most consistent members in the ranks.

Talking about consistency, Michail Antonio headed goals are a center piece for the Hammers. The English winger has 11 headed goals this year, and his last six Premier League goals have come off his noggin, too. Antonio deserves a place for the trip up north.

Likewise, Aaron Cresswell is a perennial starter since returning from a summer injury.

The Defense:

Expect three defenders from Bilic despite Winston Reid’s suspension following a silly red card last match. It was a pointless foul from the New Zealand captain, one of pure frustration, and it only made West Ham’s day worse. It was the seventh red card for West Ham this season, the most of any Premier League club.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In Reid’s place, Angelo Ogbonna, Cheikhou Kouyate and James Collins will likely play.

Ogbonna has to be better at marking. The Italian was caught ball watching and lost Harry Kane on Tottenham’s second goal. Despite his struggles, Bilic is unlikely to trust young Reece Oxford to start against Manchester United.

Kouyate has filled the right center back role admirably. The Senegalese international has locked the position down as his. James Collins, though, is always a bit shaky. Worst case scenario, in between Ogbonna and Kouyate, he should have some pacy cover if he is beaten.

Adrián could see a return between the sticks. Darren Randolph was not bad against Spurs, but he could have done more to stop the cross that Harry Kane slotted home. Bilic may elect for the familiar Adrián for the league match, and use Randolph as his cup keeper against the Red Devils on Wednesday.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 West Ham.

I do not hold out much hope for the Hammers here. West Ham have won just two of their last 23 trips to Manchester, and it looks unlikely number three will come on Sunday.

I could see a late push for the Hammers after going down by two. Sakho will be the first striker to score this season for West Ham, popping in a Payet cross. But it won’t be enough against a Manchester United team buzzing with confidence after last week’s Champions League result.

The match may go down in history, but not as a West Ham triumph. Rooney, one goal away from tying Sir Bobby Charlton’s 249 club goal record, has the chance to level or even best it against the Hammers.