clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Opposition Q&A: Man United vs West Ham

Everything you need to know about Man United ahead of Sunday’s game

Manchester United v West Ham United - EFL Cup Quarter-Final Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The wait is finally over, the Premier League has returned! However before we get too excited about all the wondrous possibilities that come with new beginnings, we need to remember that our inaugural opponents are a stubborn Jose Mourinho side. If that wasn't bad enough, they've just signed the one player almost guaranteed to always score against us, Romelu Lukaku. I spoke to Andi Thomas from our sister-site The Busby Babe to get all the information you need to know ahead of Sunday's game.

Let's start with one of our most celebrated signings in recent times, Javier Hernández. What are your thoughts on Chicharito? Is he the amazing signing we're all hoping he is? How well do you think he'll perform this season?

With Hernández, you have to make certain compromises. You have to accept that sometimes his first touch is going to be awful, and that sometimes he's going to misplace basic passes. You have to concede that his football outside the box is going to be unreliable, if it exists at all, and that he'll miss the occasional chance. There are times when he seems so hopelessly malcoordinated that it's a miracle he managed to get his shorts on.

But usually that's all fine, because he works hard, he gives everything, he genuinely seems to enjoy playing football, and he loves scoring goals. He's pretty good at it, too - at United he scored 59 in 159 appearances, which isn't bad when you consider that only 85 of those games were starts. As long as you can get the ball to him in the box, the goals should follow.

Onto your summer business, how has the window gone for Man United? You haven't bought tons of players but the signings you did make have been for substantial fees. Do you feel like you've solved the issues which held you back last season?

Two of United's problem positions have been solved, hopefully. Up front, Romelu Lukaku should - in theory - replace Zlatan Ibrahimović's goals while offering something more dynamic than his predecessor. And in midfielder, Nemanja Matić should - fingers crossed - free up Paul Pogba from some of the mucky work and let him get on with the fun stuff.

There are still gaps in the squad, though. At left-back, Luke Shaw is injured, injury-prone, and nowhere near fulfilling his potential. And there's also room for another wide player - United have been chasing Inter's Ivan Perišić all summer, but that's got nowhere.

Obviously, if Shaw and Anthony Martial can (a) find fitness and consistency, and (b) persuade José Mourinho to trust them, then both those problem will vanish. But (a) is so far proving tricky for them both, and (b) might be even harder. He's a hard man, Mourinho, and he doesn't seem to change his mind that often.

Where do you think you'll finish this season? Do you think Champions League will have an effect?

Somewhere between second and fifth, if you'll excuse the vagueness. I don't think the squad's quite ready for the title yet, and though I expect United to be better than last season - particularly in the games against lower- and mid-table teams - I'm also expecting City and Arsenal to improve as well. And six teams into four Champions League spaces won't go.

The likely Champions League effect is ... unclear. (More vagueness!) It shouldn't mean more football than last season, since United ended up playing 15 games in the Europa League, and probably won't end up going so far in Europe this time around. But the early games are more important, and so there's less scope for rotation. It'll be interesting to see how Mourinho prioritises the games, and extremely boring to hear him complain about them.

What should we be wary of on Sunday? What are your biggest strengths?

Well, Lukaku's pretty good. Between him, Rashford, and Mkhitaryan, United have some genuinely scary pace in attack, and unlike last season Paul Pogba has a full preseason behind him and a proper defensive midfielder next to him. United weren't that bad at creating chances last season; just terrible at taking them. This season, they should be better at both.

Conversely, what are your weaknesses?

The defence is a bit wobbly, and with the exception of Antonio Valencia at right-back, Mourinho doesn't seem to have decided on his preferred combinations. Victor Lindelöf has had a wobbly preseason, and Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have had wobbly careers. United are definitely there to be got at, and the Law of the Ex suggests that Hernández will get at least one.

Finally, how do you think you will line up on Sunday and what do you think the score will be?

United have used several different formations in preseason, and as a result this is a total guess. But I'd probably go for some kind of 4-3-3 along the following lines:

De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Lindelöf, Darmian; Matić, Ander Herrera, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Lukaku, Rashford.

Manchester United 2-1 West Ham

Big thank you to Andi for taking the time to answer some questions. How do you feel about our opening fixture? Confident? Concerned?