Preview: West Ham v United

The Magic of the Cup™: jumpers for goalposts, Old Etonians versus Wanderers, Ronnie Radford, the Crazy Gang … Manchester United v Millwall, 2004? The most romantic tournament in the world. Except, of course, there is no longer any flight of fancy. The Cup is dead, long live anything else.

That is certainly the sentiment at Old Trafford where Sir Alex Ferguson has long since given up any pretence that the FA Cup – the world’s oldest surviving football tournament – is anything but a distraction from more important tasks at hand. It is a sad indictment on a unique competition.

And yet there is some logic in Ferguson’s assessment, with the Scot regularly using the FA Cup as a proving ground for youngsters, those that need minutes, and players coming back from injury. Saturday’s tea-time fixture with West Ham United at Upton Park is likely to be different despite a large contingent of United fans heading south.

Yet, nine years on from United’s last triumph in this tournament, there is also a sense that the club is due a victory. Last season’s fourth round defeat to Liverpool was just one in a now growing list of FA Cup disappointments. Not since 2007 has United reached the final – the late defeat to Chelsea – and that was three years past the last occasion on which the Reds actually lifted the trophy.

What, then, of United’s approach to this year’s tournament? With Ferguson’s men safely into a Round of 16 European tie with Real Madrid, and seven points clear of Manchester City in the Premier League, could the Scot change the strategy of the past decade and send his strongest team out again the Hammers?

History says that is unlikely, although such is the depth of Ferguson’s squad that United remain narrow favourites to win in East London whatever the selection. More to the point, the Scot says that he will field a strong side at Upton Park, after watching his team spend nearly a decade without a cup win.

“The cup is a tournament where form doesn’t necessarily win games, luck has a lot to do with it,” claimed Ferguson on Friday.

“We’ve had some really difficult ties over last three or four years. You hope first of all you’re going to be at home in the draw, then you want a draw you can get through. But this is a particularly hard one so I don’t think we’ll make too many changes.”

In recent years United has drawn a succession of Premier League opponents in the FA Cup, although the defeat to Leeds United in 2010 is etched into the memory. Ferguson’s decision to field a make-shift side handed the old rivals an initiative and an infamous victory at Old Trafford.

“We got to the semi-final against City but we’ve had some hard draws – twice away to Liverpool, away to City and a home tie with Leeds, when I rested a few players and we were caught short,” adds Ferguson.

“Chelsea have been fantastic, though I thought they were lucky to beat us in the final when Drogba scored late on. We lost on penalty kicks to Arsenal, which everyone remembers was a travesty of a result. But I think with a club like ours, the closer we get to Wembley, the better we become.”

West Ham United v Manchester United - FA Cup third round, Upton Park - Saturday 5 January 2013, 5.15pmWhatever the claim to the opposite Ferguson will certainly make changes on Saturday, with neither Robin van Persie, Michael Carrick nor Patrice Evra likely to play. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney will sit out another fortnight and Nani did not travel south despite returning to full training this week.

And with Anders Lindegaard, Darren Fletcher, Danny Welbeck, Nemanja Vidic and Alexander Büttner all due match time Ferguson will make six or seven changes from the side that beat Wigan Athletic on New Year’s Day. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should both feature.

“Wayne Rooney is still injured,” confirmed the 71-year-old Scot.

“I’m surprised, it’s been longer than we thought it would be. He was meant to be back training but he’s not. It’s nothing serious but it looks like he’s going to be out for another two weeks or so. Nani is expected to start training today, and Phil Jones is available against West Ham. Everyone else is OK I think. ”

Meanwhile, West Ham captain Kevin Nolan and defender James Collins will return after suspension, but Joey O’Brien is a doubtful. On-loan Liverpool striker Andy Carroll and midfielder Mohamed Diame are both unavailable.

Returning midfielder Joe Cole could make his second début for West Ham – the club from whom Ferguson once tried to acquire a teenage Cole 15 years ago.

The match will also represent a return to the east end for Rio Ferdinand who, in the more than a decade with the Reds, is yet to win the FA Cup. Ferdinand missed the 2004 victory while suspended for missing a mandatory test.

It is unlikely to be a comfortable afternoon for the veteran defender, if selected, although United’s recent record against the Hammers is outstanding. Ferguson’s side has won eight of the past nine meetings between these sides, although West Ham did soundly beat a youthful United side in the Carling Cup two years ago.

Few expect a repeat of that 4-0 victory, but then again memories of Paolo Di Canio’s cup winner past Fabien Barthez at Old Trafford in 2001 are still shockingly fresh. And for those who believe in omens, good or bad: Cole played for the Hammers that day.

Match Details
West Ham United v Manchester United – FA Cup third round, Upton Park – Saturday 5 January 2013, 5.15pm

Possible teams
West Ham (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Reid, Tomkins, Spence, Demel; Jarvis, Noble, Collison, Taylor; Cole, Vaz Te. Subs from: Spiegel, Spence, Diarra, Lletget, Maiga, Lee, O’Neil, Chamakh, Maguire

United (4-2-3-1): Lindegaard; Jones, Smalling, Vidić, Büttner; Cleverley, Fletcher; Young, Kagawa, Welbeck; Hernández. Subs from: De Gea, Wootton, Evra, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Carrick, Scholes, Valencia, Welbeck, Powell, Macheda, van Persie, Giggs

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistant Referees: Simon Beck & Stuart Burt
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend

West Ham: WLDLLW
United: WWDWWW

Head to Head
Last 10: West Ham 2, United 8, Draw 0
Overall: West Ham 42, United 57, Draw 24


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  1. Andrew says

    I was thinking Scholes might play rather than Hernandez, but thinking about it I believe Hernandez will start. Hernandez is young and full of energy and will want to play every game. We have a week before the Liverpool game and I’m sure Hernandez will start upfront alongside Van Persie. I think the main point is that Van Persie starts on the bench and hopefully we won’t need to use him.

    I think the team you have predicted is correct, but I don believe Valencia will play instead Young. Welbeck will definitely start the match, as well as Buttner, Lindegaard, Vidic and Fletcher. It’s a good chance to give Kagawa, Jones and Smalling more match practice as well.

  2. marlon says

    Fergie mentioned our pitch was 6 years old in his p.c. today. Isn’t that the sort of thing that causes injuries? That + weather is the reason we didn’t see Fletch over the Christmas schedule, so we’ll probably start seeing a lot more of Scholes/Giggs/Fletcher in the middle when the pitches dry out. Anderson was training today as well, so we almost have a full squad (-Rooney).

  3. Chris K says

    Im hoping we see welbeck and buttner on the left, I’d like to see how they play together. Also interested in seeing what kind of magic Kagawa can come up with feeding Hernandez.

  4. Borche says

    Not since 2005 has United reached the final….

    This is a mistake in the preview, as United were in the 2007 final against Chelsea

  5. Scott says

    I agree with Sidney on this, we only beat them 1-0 at home a month ago with a much better team than the one Ed’s suggested Fergie will pick. I really would like a cup run as its been so long without a win in it especially for the team with the most wins. It’s a shame that the last time we won it was when that knob Wise was trying to assassinate half the team like Cato Fong.

  6. Scott says

    United did reach the ’07 final, the first in the new Wembley. Drogba scored winner, remember a documentary comparing the final with the ’57 final where the United keeper Ray Wood broke his cheekbone and came back on playing on wing as they didn’t have subs back then.

  7. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Never mind Scholes or Giggs… I want to see one or two of the fringe players, like Powell and Buttnuts…

  8. olawale says

    It all depend on sir alex, whether he wants us to win by fielding seniors today, at least many players are back.

  9. Violenet Banana says

    De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Smalling, Buttner, Scholes, Cleverley, Kagawa, Welbeck, Hernandez.

    It’s not five at the back, Rafael on RW?

  10. Violent Banana says

    De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Smalling, Buttner, Scholes, Cleverley, Kagawa, Welbeck, Hernandez.

    It’s not five at the back, Rafael on RW?

  11. han says

    that is a decent starting line up
    scholes & cleverley are probably going to be more effective in a game like this unless the appy ammers are going to play hoof ball
    not going to be an easy 90 mins

  12. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    Valencia just used his LEFT foot!!!! He’s off his game so much he has to resort to using the allusive left foot!!

  13. Redzebs says

    Kagawa is not a left winger, Welbeck is not a fuckin fuckin fuckin left winger, SAF arrogance in cup comps costs us again, what the fuck, we should have had at least one orthodox winger on, Scholes usual cynical foul, always a liability from the start, why when he was changing it, did he leave arafael as cm for 20 mins?

    Would he play that team in the Prem? NO

  14. sheesh says

    We couldn’t do much about West ham goals but it has been a strange performance in the second half.
    As long as we beat them in the league, that’s all that matters. Not too bothered about FA cup.

  15. sheesh says

    sidney said:
    A replay isn’t a disaster, there’s a few players who could do with another game

    The Glazers will be delighted with a replay. It’s a pain in the arse for fans, forking out £40 odd not long after Christmas.
    Valencia’s shot at the end was a disgrace. I wonder when he will get out of his slump. I feel a bit sorry for Kagawa as I’m not sure we know how to get the best out of him.

  16. Violent Banana says

    Replay far from ideal, and probably undeserved. Kagawa tidy but ineffective, Valencia abysmal, Vidic needs matches.

  17. AnantaxAnantax says

    Replay OK result. From revenue perspective actually better as extra game
    Kagawa was horrid but sure he’ll get better
    Not a huge fan of wellbeck but thought he did ok tonight. He is simply not yet United level but give him 1-2 years…
    Another beauty fr RVP. Simply a different class

  18. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    Kagawa needs to be given time after a long layoff west ham is not an easy ground to play your way back in to fitness.

  19. says

    Anyone who ever wondered what the fuss is all about with Carrick has seen how pedestrian we are without him. Vidic is utterly useless unless he is heading a ball or blocking a shot. How is he so incapable of reading crosses? What sort of two utterly annoying goals have we just given up?!

    Kagawa needs a whole season to adapt to the league while Valencia should be sold this month. If we sell Nani and keep this zombie then I give up on football. Great ball from Giggs for the equaliser but that is consolation for his bad miss a minute earlier.

    Absolutely strange game considering that De Gea has had no save worthy of the name to make all game.

  20. sheesh says

    I don’t know, Cal. I thought we were OK until they scored their second goal and then things went off the boil a bit.

    I’d much rather have a player a bit like Nani who can create something out of nothing than a predictable ‘push and run’ merchant like Valencia but, in truth, I think United can surely do better than both of those players who are using up places with their inconsistency.

  21. Bill says

    To be fair for both goals Vidic had to mark two players. The midfielders weren’t picking up, and that is where Carrick usual makes a decent contribution. Scholes and Cleverley are hardly renowned for their defensive qualities.

    Ferdinand and Vidic have about 25 games a season each in them so a mixture of one of them and Evans is probably the most likely with Smalling getting the occasional start. Almost getting like our midfield! RVP’s immense finishing papering over lots of cracks at the moment!

  22. says

    These are the matches that we understand why Rooney is so very important. In those areas where Kagawa was getting and losing the ball, Rooney would have been a battering ram and driving straight through the heart of their defence.

    Nani is good enough for us and I will take his inconsistency cos he worries defenders and can go in or outside. Valencia when he can’t cross might as well be sat in the stands. Imagine that the best cross of the day while he was on the pitch came from Rafael.

    • Mongoletsi says

      Valencia does make runs into the box now, to be fair. But he’s nothing like as good as he was. You’re right though; his strength was always blasting past defenders and putting a cross in. If he’s not doing it, he needs to step up or…

  23. says

    Bill, the difference between Rio and Vidic is that Rio would have read the second cross better knowing that Nolan would have been offside so taken a position to attack it. Vidic has always been reactionary in his defending.

  24. marlon says

    Harsh to judge Vidic and Kagawa on this game. Vidic only recently back from more than a year out and Kagawa plays best with wingers – we were using the diamond again. I think the first goal might’ve been Evans not Vidic anyway. The bigger problem was the height of our midfield. Was never going to compete at set-pieces and left Vidic and Evans with too many men. We needed Smalling to stay central until the danger was cleared rather than drift to the right.

    Can’t believe how long Valencia’s slump has gone on for. First I thought it was an injury and I still can’t understand how he can be this bad. That shot at the end reminded me of Bebe.

  25. Denton Davey says

    Dozer @ 8:01: “Kagawa has been completely useless. Welbeck too.”

    I must have been watching a different match – KagawaBunga needs playing time to get back to match-sharpness. DannyTheLad is getting better-and-better but – unfortunately for him – he’s behind both Chicharito and RVP in the pecking order for lead-the-line striker.

    Oh, and wasn’t it KagawaBunga who made that lovely reverse-pass the freed DannyTheLad for a stunning counter-attacking move ? Too bad that Welbeck’s shooting is still sub-par because that would have been an outstanding team-goal.

  26. Denton Davey says

    Marion @ 9:34: “Can’t believe how long Valencia’s slump has gone on for. First I thought it was an injury and I still can’t understand how he can be this bad. That shot at the end reminded me of Bebe.”

    That’s harsh – Bebe could have done better. Looking on the bright side, AV7 did use his left foot twice – is this a sign of things to come ?

  27. marlon says

    Use of the left foot is a sign of how far the right has fallen. No more. Means Smalling is our most one footed player now.

  28. dozer says

    Calvino said:
    Kagawa needs a whole season to adapt to the league while Valencia should be sold this month. If we sell Nani and keep this zombie then I give up on football. Great ball from Giggs for the equaliser but that is consolation for his bad miss a minute earlier.
    Absolutely strange game considering that De Gea has had no save worthy of the name to make all game.

    Valencia’s achievements…
    Alan Hardaker Trophy (1): 2010
    PFA Premier League Team of the Year (1): 2009–10
    Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year (1): 2011–12
    Manchester United Players’ Player of the Year (1): 2011–12[65]
    Manchester United Goal of the Year (1): 2011–12
    The game picked up when Valencia came on. RVP can’t drive a game, he can finish given the oppurtunity.
    Valencia may be out of form but he still creates the opportunities, some of which he spurns.
    You want to sell a player who’s been our most consistent footballer over the last 2 seasons for a Denilson wannabe?

    Sir Ryan Giggs? No no no. Sir Paul Scholes say.

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