West Ham have had a mix bag of performances this season against Manchester United. At the end of November, the Hammers picked up a crucial point in their 1-1 Premier League draw. Half a week later, West Ham were clobbered in a 4-1 EFL Cup match to the Red Devils.
West Ham’s form of late has followed a similar pattern of unpredictability. After three-straight victories over Burnley, Hull City and Swansea City, the Hammers fell 1-0 to Leicester City on Saturday.
The defeat at the King Power Stadium came despite West Ham controlling just over 60 percent of possession, and leading the shot count 19 to eight. The Hammers will have to practice better efficiency in front of goal to get a result against Manchester United, a team on a run of five-straight wins, and whose last League defeat came in late October.
Despite Manchester United’s run of victories, the Red Devils still sit in 6th place in the Premier League. They will have to continue against a West Ham team which has not lost in the League to Manchester United in the last four matches.
Paul Pogba has recaptured the form which brought about the £89.3 million transfer fee in the summer. The French midfielder has two goals and two assists in his last four Premier League appearances.
The Red Devils will be without defender Eric Bailly, who is traveling with the Ivory Coast to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). But Manchester United could have Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney back in the squad after both players missed the New Year’s Eve match.
With such a tight run of matches, Andy Carroll may be given a rest. The striker played all 90 minutes against Leicester. Andre Ayew could move up the pitch to play striker as the Ghanaian was granted an extended stay before the AFCON. Unlike Manchester United’s Bailly, Ayew can play in the match before leaving on 3rd January.
Ayew had trouble causing Kasper Schmeichel any trouble on Saturday, with all three first half shots off target.
Michail Antonio is another option to play striker. Antonio moved alongside of Carroll as the match came to a close, with Ayew shifting into a right midfield role. Antonio is West Ham’s leading scorer with eight goals and has proved efficient with his head or his feet.
Mark Noble may miss the match against Manchester United. The captain was substituted off in the second half against Leicester with a knee injury. In his place, Pedro Obiang would be ready to return to the side, playing alongside of Cheikhou Kouyate.
Kouyate, like Ayew, was also granted an extended stay before he leaved on 3rd January to captain his Senegalese side in the AFCON.
Despite the limited rest, Dimitri Payet will likely start as a left midfielder. The French international did his best to break through the Leicester defense, with eight shots and 13 crosses. Schmeichel was forced into making three saves.
Antonio nearly put West Ham level after his spectacular volley effort right before halftime struck the woodwork. Antonio was dangerous for much of the match, and seems to give a nonstop shift every time out.
If either winger is unable to start, Sofiane Feghouli could start his first Premier League match. The Algerian was left out of the AFCON squad after a slow start to life in east London. He has made eight substitute appearances in the League, and earned his first assist when Carroll scored his cross against Swansea.
Manuel Lanzini could find his way back into the starting lineup if Ayew vacates the central attacking midfield role. The Argentinian returned as a substitute on Saturday after a rib injury kept him sidelined against Swansea.
Winston Reid has been West Ham’s most consistent defender to close out 2016, and he will be vital should 2017 start out with a good result. The New Zealand international had another solid match against Leicester with eight clearances.
Islam Slimani found space behind Reid for the Foxes’ only goal, but more questions can be asked of Aaron Cresswell, who left ample room for Marc Albrighton to pick out a perfect ball into the box for Slimani to get his head to.
With Arthur Masuaku still injured, Cresswell will continue to start at left back. Cresswell had a great attacking day, creating four chances against Leicester with 92 percent passing.
To partner with Reid will be Angelo Ogbonna. The Italian center back was far from perfect against the Foxes, but with James Collins and Reece Oxford still injured, he seems a certain starter.
Havard Nordtveit started his second-straight match at right back, and again proved a reliable cover option. The Norwegian will likely start again on Monday. Sam Byram is back in training, but it may be too soon for the 23-year-old full back to start, and Alvaro Arbeloa is reportedly still recovering from a contusion suffered in the Arsenal match at the beginning of December.
Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Manchester United
The Red Devils are on good form, led by Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored 12 goals in his 18 matches this season. The contest may prove too much for the Hammers to cope with on short rest, becoming their second-straight defeat.
But with Payet supplying Antonio or Carroll in the box, anything can happen. West Ham are capable of getting on the score sheet at the London Stadium.
All statistics from squawka.com