The Engllish Premier League

West Ham v Manchester United – Saturday 5th January – Upton Park (19:15)

West Ham v Manchester United

Our romance with the FA Cup continues, 141 years from its first ever competition, as the much anticipated third round of the competition starts this weekend. This is the stage where the big clubs join the survivors from the lower leagues who will attempt to go on a giant-killing spree that makes the FA Cup magical at times.

Manchester United will play West Ham at Upton Park in one of four all-Premier League clashes. United thumped the Hammers 6-0 in their last FA Cup meeting back in January 2003. Tempers have flared ahead of the encounter as Red Devils supporters have hit out at West Ham after they cut the number of away followers allowed to attend the mouth-watering clash by 762 to just under 5000.

Please note that both teams are yet to play their midweek league fixtures at the time of writing this article.

For the first time this season, West Ham are looking nervously over their shoulders. When they beat Chelsea at the start of December there was cautious talk of pushing for Europe but reality has bitten hard. The loss of Mohamed Diame to a hamstring injury has contributed to a winless run of four matches and, from a position of comfort, West Ham are only six points above the bottom three. Saturday’s defeat at Reading heightened the anxiety. This was a very poor result, whichever way you look at it. Reading had not even won two games in the Premiership since their promotion last May and the solitary strike after just five minutes of the game sealed the points. Diame (hamstring), George McCartney (knee ligament) and Andy Carroll (knee) remain on the sidelines. However, top goalscorer Kevin Nolan and defender James Collins will return after serving a one match suspension against Norwich for picking up their fifth bookings of the season at Reading.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side is unbeaten in their past eight Premier League fixtures, with seven of those results being victories. United currently sit top of the table, seven points clear of nearest title-contending rival Manchester City, with 49 points from 20 matches. United overcame West Brom 2-0 at Old Trafford last Saturday to take their tally of goals to 50, 11 more than the second highest scoring teams Chelsea and Arsenal. Ferguson’s men have galvanised their grip on first place during the Christmas period and are now overwhelming favourites to secure a 20th English title. However, although Christmas is now behind them, the fixtures continue to come thick and fast, and with this FA Cup game, Ferguson will have to manage his resources carefully. United face games against Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Fulham and Everton over the next six weeks, while Real Madrid loom on the horizon in the Champions League. Wayne Rooney will still be sidelined with injury but Shinji Kagawa could be handed a start after recently returning from injury. United have travelled with the best away record all season with seven wins and two losses from 10 games.

The Red Devils have beaten West Ham in the last eight meetings, scoring a massive 23 goals and conceding just 3! There have been six clean sheets in six of those victories and there’s no reason United should slip up here. The away win looks a banker bet.


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