Tag West Ham United

Tag West Ham United

Preview: United v West Ham United

Ed November 28, 2012 Tags: , Matches 69 comments

Old Trafford takes in a rare midweek Premier League game, with high-flying West Ham United in town on Wednesday as Sir Alex Ferguson’s team aims to consolidate a one point lead in the table. Manchester United’s renewed Premier League supremacy came amid few positives from a lethargic display against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday – a scenario Ferguson is keen to avoid against the Hammers.

Once again, on Saturday, United fell behind, only to secure victory over QPR with a three goal burst inside 10 second half minutes. It is a pattern that has repeated all season, although the Reds’ lifelessness for much of Saturday’s tie will definitely certainly concern United’s manager.

West Ham travel north following defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, but lying in a healthy eighth place in the Premier League, with Sam Allardyce’s outfit just two points off a European qualification place.

This is a performance that brought fresh support from Ferguson for his old friend Allardyce. The former Bolton Wanderers manager has rarely enjoyed universal support from Hammers’ fans during an 18 month spell at the club.

Meanwhile, United will make at least one change from the weekend’s line-up, with veteran midfielder Paul Scholes absent through suspension.  Anderson, who impressed in a 30 minute cameo on Saturday, could start just his seventh game of the season against Allardyce’s outfit.

Ferguson has plenty of dilemmas ahead of kick off, with neither Ashley Young, Nani, nor Antonio Valencia in form for the Londoners’ visit. In any case Valencia’s hip problem could rule out the Ecuadorian once again, while Nani has missed matches against Aston Villa, Norwich City and QPR with a hamstring problem. Young, jeered off on Saturday, could drop to the bench.

“We’ll see what Antonio is like today and tomorrow,” admitted the United manager.

“Nani is still going to be out [but] Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were on the bench on Saturday and they’re available. It’s good to have them as back-up and in the back four things are much healthier. We’ve got plenty of options in the midfield and up front – it’s just the two wide positions.”

Manchester United v West Ham United - Premier League, Old Trafford - Wednesday 29 November 8.00pmInjuries and form could see United once again deploy a narrow midfield, with Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck also in contention to start alongside the Reds’ oft-errant Brazilian, Anderson.

Yet,  the big-boned midfielder, with Javier Hernández, changed Saturday’s game for United – the pair adding urgency and dynamism as the Reds won the fixture with a short burst in the second half. The player has often frustrated at Old Trafford, but a 30 minute substitute appearance has renewed hope that the former Porto star could fulfill his potential.

“I thought Ando won the game for us,” said Ferguson after United’s 3-1 victory on Saturday.

“His performance was outstanding. He took the game by the scruff of the neck and he was so positive and determined in his play that he picks himself on Wednesday.”

However, much focus will also be on United’s opponents at Old Trafford, with £35 million on-loan striker Andy Carroll likely to draw the Stretford End’s jeers. The Liverpool forward, on loan at Upton Park for the season, has scored just once this season after a near disastrous campaign with the Merseyside club last year.

Still, United’s inability to come up with more than three clean sheets in 20 matches this season means Carroll is an undoubted threat on Wednesday night.

“I am sure if you ask any defender, they find it difficult to play against someone like that who is good in the air and on the floor,” said fellow striker Rooney who should return to United’s starting line-up against the Hammers.

“He is physical and he makes it difficult. That type of player doesn’t always get all the goals but they can cause trouble up front and create problems. I am sure that is what Sam Allardyce wants him to do.”

Whether Carroll’s presence induces yet another comeback performance is yet to be determined, although Ferguson is unlikely to tolerate another lesson in mediocrity. While United’s defensive performance against QPR was far better than at times this season, with Jonny Evans impressing at centre half, the team’s lack of urgency was deeply concerning.

Meanwhile, Allardyce is without suspended midfielder Mark Noble, while left-back George McCartney is a doubt after suffering an ankle injury against Spurs. Yossi Benayoun, Jack Collison and forward Ricardo Vaz Te are also ruled out though injury.

Whatever West Ham’s short-term problems, Ferguson says Dudley-born Allardyce has already exceeded his remit in brining stability to the east London side.

“Big Sam went to Upton Park a year and a bit ago and the cynics said he’s not a West Ham manager as he doesn’t play football,” said Ferguson.

“What was his mandate? To get them up into the Premier League as quickly as possible and he got them up within a year. Tell me someone else who could’ve done that? He’s also had to rebuild the team and get two or three players out because of their salaries. He’s very underrated, it’s as simple as that.”

Whether Allardyce can lead his men to victory is another matter. While memories of Fabian Barthez raised right hand and Paulo di Canio’s cup goal are fresh, so too are eight victories for the Reds in the past 10 meetings between these sides. Old Trafford expects nothing less than a repeat.

Match Details
Manchester United v West Ham United – Premier League, Old Trafford – Wednesday 28 November 2012, 8.00pm

Possible teams
United (4-2-3-1): Lindegaard; Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Anderson; Cleverley, Rooney, Welbeck; van Persie. Subs from: De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Powell, Wootton, Buttner, Fletcher, Hernandez, Henríquez.

West Ham (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Reid, McCartney, Tomkins, O’Brien; Nolan, Diame, O’Neil, Taylor, Jarvis; Carroll. Subs from: Spiegel, Collins, Demel, Taylor, Moncur, Cole, Maiga.

Officials
Referee: M Jones
Assistants: R Ganfield, G Beswick
Fourth official: J Moss

Form
United: WWWLLW
West Ham: WLDWDL

Head to Head
Last 10: United 8, West Ham 2, Draw 0
Overall: United 56, West Ham 42, Draw 24

Stats

  • Hernández remains the league’s most productive goalscorer in terms of the average time per goal strike – one every 69 minutes is unmatched by any other forward;
  • Robin van Persie failed to add to his tally against QPR, but performed well enough to usurp Carlos Tevez as the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index‘ leading player – on 276 points to Tevez’ 275, with Juan Mata in third-placed on 244;
  • The Dutchman’s philosophy is certainly more than ‘style over substance’ – he covered 6.39 miles at the weekend, more than any other United player for the third consecutive game;
  • United is the only team in the league to have won six of the last seven games, yet in nine of the past 13 league matches Ferguson’s men have fallen behind;
  • Darren Fletcher returned from a long-term absence at the weekend – his first league start in over a year – and covered 6.29 miles in 90 minutes, more than all but three of his team mates;
  • Meanwhile, West Ham head to Old Trafford just two points off Everton in fifth-place, with Kevin Nolan key to the Hammers chances at Old Trafford – Nolan is the league’s most accurate finisher according to the Index, with 70 per cent of 30 shots on target this season;
  • Defender James Tomkins has won 93.8 percent of his tackles this season – more than any other league player;
  • The Hammers suffered a tough day against Spurs last weekend, but Andy Carroll’s goal means that the east London club has failed to score in just three matches this season;
  • Carroll has split fans’ opinions this season, but has 13 on target from twenty attempts.

Prediction
3-0

Advantage United as Rooney inspires comeback

Ed April 3, 2011 Tags: , Matches 47 comments

There have been many late comebacks this season. Indeed, Manchester United’s ability turn to mediocre performances into victory is perhaps the defining hallmark of a season that again rests in the Reds hands. This time at the Boleyn Ground, where United has suffered so much in the past, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side came from two down to West Ham United to score a potentially vital win in the Premier League title race. With Chelsea and Arsenal drawing later in the day, United eased two points further ahead, although with matches against both London sides to come, nothing is settled.

With the hosts two goals ahead within 25 minutes United’s visit to east London threatened to be every bit as traumatic as previous matches on this ground. The Reds’ 2-1 defeat in 1992 handed Leeds United the initiative in the old First Division; three years later and a 1-1 draw enabled Blackburn Rovers to take the title. Just six wins in the past 17 visits and a 4-0 loss on this ground in November’s Carling Cup quarter-final attest to the trouble United has faced in east London.

Not this time. Ferguson’s half-time reorganisation of United’s tactics, and Wayne Rooney’s 14 minute hat-trick, settled the game that for much of the opening period seemed beyond the visitors.

“We played like champions today,” Ferguson said, whose team is now seven points clear with as many games to go.

“We didn’t lose our faith in our ability and that was a great boost to us. It was a real championship performance.

“They probably only had two shots at goal, but two-nothing down at half-time you’re under the cosh. I felt we had to go for it. I brought on Chicharito, put Ryan back to left-back. At that point I’m saying to myself goal difference doesn’t matter. Lets get something out of it.

“We kept creating chances in the first half. Valencia had them on toast. He’s so comfortable on the ball, they couldn’t get it off him. In the first half he delivered two or three fantastic balls in, we just didn’t get enough on them to capitalise. But in the second half, when Chicharito comes on, he gives you that lightning pace and he’s threatening them all the time behind. So it meant they were going right back towards the box and gave us a lot of space to operate.”

Yet, Ferguson’s decision to leave out top-goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov, in-form Javier  Hernández and winger Nani, seemingly handed West Ham the initiative. Deploying Rooney, not in the deeper position that has prompted a return to form in recent weeks but as a lone front-runner, Ferguson asked veteran Ryan Giggs and newly fit Antonio Valencia to provide width. Indeed the latter, whose ability to run at defenders United has sorely missed, proved a constant threat on the right.

The changes left United disjointed in central midfield and vulnerable in defence, despite Nemanja Vidic’s return to partner Chris Smalling in the heart of the Reds’ back-four. Within 15 minutes the hosts took control of the game as Frank Noble scored from the spot after Patrice Evra handled. Tomas Hitzlsperger’s fine long pass split United’s defence and Carlton Cole drew the Frenchman’s infringement.

Within 10 minutes the Hammers were further ahead, Vidic bringing down Cole for the second spot-kick of the match. United’s captain argued that the foul was outside the area – there were no more than inches in it – but Noble lashed home his second penalty to give the hosts a potentially decisive lead.

It could have been so much worse, with Vidic receiving a caution after bringing down Demba Ba before half-time. As the last man, United’s captain may have been fortunate not to see red, although with the ball not under the Senegalese striker’s control it was hard for referee Lee Mason to judge whether a clear goalscoring opportunity had been denied.

Yet, it is testament to both United’s resilience and Ferguson’s ability to gamble that the Reds turned the game around in the second half. If the 69-year-old Scot had offered West Ham the momentum with his initial team selection then Hernández’ introduction for Evra radically altered both United’s state of mind and the match.

The Mexican’s pace, Valencia’s willingness to run at Wayne Bridge and substitute Berbatov’s understanding of space, opened up the game, turning United’s ample first half possession into chances and goals.

Rooney superbly curled in a 25-yard free-kick on the hour to bring United back into the match, before the England man skipped past two players to lash home a second with 20 to go. The striker brought down a curtain on a horrible 12 months by completing his hat-trick from the spot after Matt Upson handled Fabio da Silva’s attempted cross. And United’s come-back was complete with the inevitable Hernández goal with five minutes to go.

It was only a fifth away win in the Premier League this season but on chances alone a thoroughly deserved one. There is also a sense that United’s victory will have deeply hurt both Arsenal and Chelsea, whose inconsistency has enabled Ferguson’s side to pull away.

“It makes an impact on us. Seven games left. You can count the games down one by one,” added Ferguson.

“It ends up you run out of games and hopefully we’re there. Arsenal have games in hand and it could go to goal difference but I somehow don’t think so.”

The Reds excellent recent record at the Emirates will again be put to the test, although by the time United visits north London in May the title could already be over, with Chelsea seemingly focused on Europe and Arsenal simply not mentally strong enough to compete. It’s a charge, whatever United’s weaknesses, that cannot be levelled at the Reds.

“We don’t give up. No matter what the score in the game, we keep going,” Giggs told ManUtd.com.

“We’d played some good stuff in the first half. We just gave silly goals away. We were getting into good areas but the final ball wasn’t good enough. We just needed to concentrate more in the final third. We felt if we kept creating chances and got a goal back we could go on and win it.”

So it proved and with United’s title rivals dropping points, the victory may yet be pivotal. This time, on this ground, it went in United’s favour.

Match Facts
West Ham – 442 – Green; Jacobsen, Upson, Da Costa, Bridge; O’Neil (Obinna 83), Parker, Noble (Keane 83), Hitzlsperger; Cole (Piquionne 68), Ba

United – 4231 – Kuszczak; Fabio Da Silva, Vidic, Smalling, Evra (Hernández 46); Carrick, Gibson; Valencia, Park Ji-Sung (Berbatov 64), Giggs; Rooney (Nani 87)

Attendance – 34,546
Man of the Match – Valencia

Possession: West Ham 37% – 63% United
Attempts: 6 – 18
On Target: 2 – 9
Corners: 0 – 16
Fouls: 10 – 9

Vidic back for vital Hammers trip

Ed April 2, 2011 Tags: , Matches 211 comments

Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic makes a welcome return for the Reds, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s injury-hit squad faces a less than welcoming Upton Park fixture. Rio Ferdinand is back in training but not available for the Saturday lunchtime game with West Ham United, while Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Rafael da Silva are all injured. Adding to Ferguson’s defensive problems, Northern Irish international Jonny Evans will sit out the first of three matches following a red card against Bolton Wanderers a fortnight ago.

Vidic’s return and no fresh injuries during the international break is a welcome bonus for Ferguson, who says that the intensity of the modern game is the cause of the latest Old Trafford injury crisis. With United still chasing a remarkable and very unlikely treble there are echoes of the club’s all-conquering 1999 season.

“The kind of games Manchester United are playing today are far more competitive than they were in 1999,” said Ferguson on Friday.

“The speed of the game has increased, the standard of training and pitches has improved, so everything’s faster. The game is quicker and therefore you run the risk of injury because of that.

“The big one is Saturday, because we are depleted in one area of the pitch. With eight games to go, you can’t exclude anyone. Whoever is the most consistent will win this league. But we should not over-stretch ourselves in terms of looking forward – this game is as important as any.

“I thought the two-week break would bring a few of our injured players on. It has, but not enough for them to play against West Ham. We are considerably short for the right-back position. We have to solve that – and find the right solution.”

“Rio has started training. He has only been training two days and then just a light session today. I have to decide whether we bring him in tomorrow, or give him a day off and start him on Wednesday again. He is more likely to be fit for the Fulham game.”

With so many injuries Ferguson’s back-four almost picks itself, and with Darren Fletcher still suffering from a mystery stomach bug and Paul Scholes sitting out the second of a two-match ban, the Scot is also short in central midfield. Anderson trained this week, although there is no guarantee the 22-year-old Brazilian will be thrust back into Premier League action. Meanwhile Park Ji-Sung is in United’s matchday squad after overcoming a knee complaint.

West Ham United v Manchester United, Boleyn Ground, 3rd April 2011Ferguson’s comparatively meagre resources could mean another game at the head of United’s midfield for Wayne Rooney, who has excelled in a deeper position in recent weeks. Either Javier Hernández, who played and scored for Mexico over the international break, or Dimitar Berbatov will lead United’s line.

And striker Rooney believes that United’s home form could win the Reds a 19th domestic league title. It certainly won’t be the club’s performances on the road, which have brought just five Premier League wins away from fortress Old Trafford this season.

“I have been a player in the away dressing room and I know the fear you feel before the game and you are not expected to get anything out of it,” said Rooney, who played at Old Trafford for Everton in 2003.

“So we have that psychological advantage even before the game starts but we know we are good enough to beat anyone here.

“I grew up an Everton fan so to be part of the team to overtake Liverpool’s record would be brilliant. It would mean so much to us players as well as the fans. It is something I have been thinking about a lot. I know all the Everton fans want us to do it and hopefully we can.

“You look forward to every game at this stage and you’ve got to enjoy it, especially when you are in the running for a few trophies. It is exciting for the fans and it’s exciting for the players knowing that you are just a few weeks away from possibly winning a major trophy or two.”

Meanwhile, West Ham captain Scott Parker should play despite picking up a shoulder injury on international duty this week, although Frederic Piquionne is unlikely to start for Avram Grant’s outfit. Indeed, the Israeli says that his captain should be named Footballer of the Year after a series of outstanding performances for the Londoners this season.

“I think, without any doubt, that he’s the player of the year. I don’t see any player that is better than him,” said Grant.

“And if you also want to nominate a player who’s a good example, it’s good for everybody. He’s a player who always gives everything, always trains well, is always positive and always gives everything for the team. If we are in a position that we can stay in the league it’s because we took points in the first half of the season, sometimes without 10 or 11 players. And he played and he was very good.”

Despite the Hammers’ seemingly excellent record against United, including a 4-0 Carling Cup quarter-final victory in the driving snow just before Christmas, West Ham have lost their last five league games against the Reds without scoring a goal. It’s the kind of record that Ferguson is desperate to for his side to maintain.

Opposition
West Ham – 451 – Green; Jacobsen, da Costa, Upson, Bridge; O’Neil, Parker, Hitzlsperger, Noble, Obinna; Ba. Subs from: Boffin, Gabbidon, Tomkins, Boa Morte, Sears, Hines, Spector, Keane, Cole, Reid, Kovac.

United
United – 442 – van der Sar; Fabio, Vidic, Smalling, Evra; Carrick, Gibson; Valencia, Rooney, Nani; Hernandez. Subs from: Kuszczak, Owen, Berbatov, Bébé, Park, Obertan, Tunnicliffe, Morrison, King, Giggs, Park Ji-Sung, Anderson.

Officials
Referee: Lee Mason
Assistant referees: Darren Cann & Patrick Keane
Fourth official: Stuart Attwell

Form
West Ham – DWWWLD
United – WWDWWW

Sobering loss poses serious questions

Ed December 2, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 37 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson promised faith in youth this season, although he may have cause to rethink the assertion after his team’s humiliation in East London on Tuesday. That Manchester United’s 29 match unbeaten run came to an end in such empathic fashion so soon after scoring seven at the weekend was surprise enough

That the Reds surrendered so meekly all the more shocking. But while Ferguson’s younger players failed to perform, arguably it was his experienced pros that truly let him down.

True, West Ham United exposed all of Bébé’s many weaknesses and Gabriel Obertan often looked lost too, while Chris Smalling was often uncomfortable and Jonny Evans – not for the first time – physically dominated. Fabio da Silva demonstrated his inexperience too.

Yet United, with Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs deployed in central midfield, hardly lacked for big match nous. The addition of John O’Shea and Tomasz Kuzsazck offered yet more experience to a side whose average age was nearly 25. Not 20.

Sir Alex Ferguson brushed off the defeat, blaming individual mistakes and ‘soft’ goals, which is no surprise. He cannot but support younger players who have yet to build a reputation or the confidence that goes with it. But the nature of United’s drubbing has sparked a debate not only about the quality of the club’s youngsters but the squad’s strength-in-depth too.

“I didn’t expect that, that’s for sure. If you analyse it the goals we gave away were absolutely too soft,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“We had one or two half chances and Gabriel Obertan had a shot saved by the goalkeeper (Robert Green) which then hit the post.

“The goals killed it. You can’t just give goals away at this level. That first goal was a break for them. We were in control in the early part, played some good football. But goals change games.

“The thing that sparked it was the goal that was disallowed because it got the crowd up. It spurred them on.”

Not that Ferguson is likely to criticise his youngster’s potential having very publicly placed faith in the group before the season’s start. Indeed, there’s some sympathy with Ferguson’s view in the match statistics, which saw United dominate possession – 55 per cent – and create as many chances as the hosts.

Moreover, arguably the worst performers were United’s senior men, with O’Shea, Giggs and Fletcher performing poorly. Anderson, after dominating midfield against Blackburn last weekend, seemed less than interested in the first period; presumably Ferguson’s hairdryer inspired a less insipid response after the break.

Kuzsazck simply confirmed that his exit sooner rather than later is to be welcomed not feared. Not least by Smalling, who has looked so assured in previous outings, but turned into a nervous wreck in the freezing cold on Tuesday night.

Yet, one cannot but be struck by Bébé’s failure on the right-wing. After scoring in the previous round, and netting a stunning double for the reserves recently, much was hoped – if not expected – of the £8 million Portuguese. Instead the winger’s commitment to running down blind allies and delivering without any quality was total.

Meanwhile, Obertan’s quality with the ball at his feet is potentially outstanding but his understanding of the game rudimentary at best. Even Hernandez had one of his least effective games in a Red shirt, demonstrating that without true support he is unable to dictate the flow of United’s attacks.

For all the defender’s attacking endeavors, Fabio’s failure was summed up in the opening period when he let a simple pass roll under his foot and across the touchline. Not a good day at the office.

But if one player’s ignominious failure at the Boleyn Ground was a case study for the team, then Evans takes it. The Ulsterman’s embarrassment by Carlton Cole for a second time this season mercifully ended in the second period with his substitution. That United fans had already sung for Wes Brown surely not a coincidence.

Of course, time rather than conjecture is the ultimate judge of whether United’s squad and younger players are up to the job. Humiliation in East London can do little to the players’ confidence though. Indeed, Obertan, Bébé and Fabio will now see little action, save for the upcoming dead rubber against Valencia at Old Trafford, before the season’s end.

Unless Ferguson risks deploying them in the FA Cup third round fixture against Liverpool. After Leeds United at the same stage last season, surely that’s a risk the Scot is unwilling to take.

PlayPlay

Kids face Hammers test

Ed November 30, 2010 Tags: , Matches 167 comments

Manchester United’s second string travel to Upton Park this evening in the continuing quest to win a third Carling Cup in a row. Sir Alex Ferguson’s youth and fringe players will be offered another chance to shine, with momentum also key after United’s thumping 7-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford last weekend.

However, Ferguson could make 11 changes to the side that beat Rovers, with ‘keeper Ben Amos set to start and Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Javier Hernández almost certainly involved.

“It would be great to win it three times in a row. The League Cup has become an interesting trophy now,” said Ferguson.

“We come into it a bit later and it gives me an opportunity to play the young players as I did against Wolves. They responded very well.

“The players who played against Wolves are hopefully the future of the club. There’s a great potential there. All we have to do is develop that potential and realise it. By the time they are 24 or 25, we hope they will be the next Manchester United.”

The match could also offer young wingers Bébé and Gabriel Obertan another chance in the first team picture against West Ham United. Obertan scored a stunning goal against Bursaspor recently, while Bébé struck a magnificent double for the reserves last week.

Indeed, the match is perhaps more crucial to Obertan, who has now been at the club for 18 months but is yet to break into the first team on a regular basis despite injuries to Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia.

Of those who started on Saturday perhaps only Anderson could feature tonight, with the Brazilian short of minutes this season. The player’s forceful performance against Rovers was a reminder of those early in his United career. However, in the past two seasons the midfielder has failed to progress, with injuries and temperament holding the 23-year-old back.

Ryan Giggs, also short of minutes this season, could feature from the bench as the Welsh legend, 37 yesterday, regains fitness.

But it is United’s youngsters whom are the focus tonight, with 20-year-old Amos hoping to force his way into the first team picture. Surprisingly promoted to number three ‘keeper after Ben Foster’s departure in the summer, Amos says that he is learning from Edwin van der Sar every day.

“I’ve said a few times that it is a little bit like training with your dad,” the Macclesfield-born player told ManUtd.com.

“I don’t think he’ll appreciate that, but he’s great. I’m chewing at his ear all the time, trying to get bits of advice. He’s very open and he says what he thinks.

“There’s only one position and we train a lot, training everyday without playing is difficult, but you’ve just got to keep yourself motivated and make sure you’re ready and available when you’re needed.

“The next game is always a target for me. They don’t come round too often being the number three keeper, so I’ve just got to make sure I’m ready and I’m peaking when those games come around.”

United’s last defeat in this competition came in September 2008 when Coventry City won 2-0 at Old Trafford in the third round. Since which time Ferguson’s fringe side picked up the trophies in Spring 2009 and 2010.

United’s recent record against West Ham is excellent too, despite the painful results in 1995 and 1992, which cost United the Premier League. Ferguson’s side has scored 13 goals without reply against the Hammers in the last five meetings between the sides, with the Reds winning the last half-dozen encounters.

Meanwhile, West Ham is expected to field a strong team, although key players Frederic Piquionne, Valon Behrami and Scott Parker miss the game through injury. Danny Gabbidon, Herita Ilunga, and Kieron Dyer joined Mark Noble, Manuel da Costa, Jack Collison and Thomas Hitzlsperger as long-term absentees this week, while Lars Jacobsen is cup-tied.

However, Mexican winger Pablo Barrera is looking forward to meeting compatriot Hernández with whom he stared at the World Cup in South Africa.

“I know him well. We first played alongside each other for the under-20 national team when we were 18 or 19 years old. He’s a year younger than me,” said Barrera.

“He’s a good guy. He’s laid back but works hard, is very conscientious and is a good player.”

Given Hernández’ scoring record this season, few would bet against the striker hitting the net again tonight.

Opposition
West Ham – 442 – Green; Gabbidon, Jacobsen, Upson, Tomkins; Kovac, Behrami, Barrera, Stanislas; Piquionne, Obinna.

Subs from: Boffin, Boa Morte, Hines, McCarthy, Reid, Cole, Spector, Faubert, Nouble, Spence, Kurucz, Stech, Brown.

United
United – 442 – Amos; Neville, Smalling, Evans, Fábio; Bébé, Gibson, O’Shea, Obertan; Macheda, Hernández.

Subs from: Rafael, Brown, Anderson, Carrick, Park, Eikrem, Dudgeon, Gill, Morrison, Brady, Kuszczak, Fletcher, Giggs.

Officials
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistant referees: R S Ganfield & S Ledger
Fourth official: Andre Marriner

Form
West Ham – LDDDLW
United – WDDWWW

Slick Reds ease to West Ham win

Ed August 29, 2010 Tags: , Matches 6 comments

Wayne Rooney scored as Manchester United cruised to victory over relegation-threatened West Ham United at Old Trafford with a vibrant performance. After the disappointing draw with Fulham last weekend, United regained momentum in a Premier League title race that is already beginning to take a familiar shape.

The weight finally lifted and fitness levels creeping towards a sharpness not seen before his injury against Bayern Munich in March, Rooney can now enjoy a new level of freedom from press scrutiny. For the time being at least.

After all, Rooney has traditionally scored in bursts, and with the drought counting now ended, the Scouser is now liberated to fire United towards a strong start to the season.

While United’s talisman opened the Reds account from the spot, Sir Alex Ferguson reserved special praise for Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes, outstanding against Avram Grant’s side, alongside the lively Nani.

“Dimitar and Paul Scholes orchestrated that victory,” added Ferguson, whose side remain unbeaten this season.

“They deserved their standing ovation and Dimitar’s goal was excellent.

“You have to win your home games and we are back on track after dropping those two points at Fulham last week.

“It is too early to say what formation the league is taking at present but the usual suspects are up there.”

Yet the game threatened to fall as flat as the Old Trafford atmosphere in the first half, with United’s possession not converted into goals in front of the Stretford End.

Grant’s side, hardly obdurate in the opening games of the season, demonstrated much of the fight it will need to avoid the drop come May. Rob Green, the much derided now former-England goalkeeper, Matthew Upson and Danny Gabbidon did much to keep United’s attack at bay.

As the half wore on Scholes, the returning Ryan Giggs and Nani on the right wing exerted ever greater influence on the match though. Indeed, shortly after Nani had hit the bar, Scholes found Giggs on the left, with the Welshman far too good for former United player Jonathan Spector, who gave away the spot kick. Rooney duly converted on the half hour.

The Reds doubled the advantage minutes into the second half as Old Trafford finally warmed to the occasion if not the weather. Nani started and finished a smart move, smashing a left foot shot past Green into the top corner. The goal had all the hallmarks of Cristiano Ronaldo; the heir apparent now firmly crowned.

Then the dénouement as Nani beat two West Ham defenders before teeing up Berbatov to score with an acrobatic finish. The Bulgarian, still not without his frustrations, has outshone his strike partner in the early season matches.

“Strikers want to score, but it is Wayne’s performance that we should be talking about,” added Ferguson.

“He was full of life and energy. He worked his socks off. He needs games but the 90 minutes will bring him on.”

“I thought his overall game was much better, he looked a lot stronger and we look forward to him playing for England now and coming back fitter,” added assistant manager Mike Phelan.

West Ham meanwhile remain rooted to the foot of the table having lost its opening three matches. With games against Chelsea, Stoke City away and Tottenham Hotspur coming up there was more than a touch of gallows humour about the travelling support.

They’ll need it.

United, on the other hand, head into the international break with the mood lifted after the recriminations of last week’s draw. Tougher tests lie ahead, of course, not least an away trip to Goodison Park, followed by Rangers and Liverpool at Old Trafford after the break.

Rooney, fit and now scoring goals, will at last relish the upcoming matches.

Match facts

United: van der Sar; O’Shea, Vidic, Evans (Smalling, 74), Evra; Nani, Scholes (Carrick, 74), Fletcher, Giggs; Berbatov (Owen, 74), Rooney.

Man-of-the-match: Dimitar Berbatov
Attendance: 75,061

Possession: United 54% – 46% West Ham
Attempts: 11 – 7
On target: 7 – 2
Corners: 8 – 2
Fouls: 3 – 5

Reds look to hammer OT visitors

Ed August 28, 2010 Tags: , Matches 99 comments

Old Trafford expects its second victory of the season, with West Ham United in town for this afternoon’s late kick off. The Hammers, beaten twice already, conceding six goals in the process, look prime candidates for relegation, with manager Avram Grant admitting his team is suffering from “a lot of psychology problems” early in the season.

United’s principal selection choice surrounds in-form Paul Scholes who could be rested for the tie. Although with the international break coming up, the ginger midfielder can take a well-earned rest after the Hammers’ visit. Ferguson could draft in Michael Carrick or Ryan Giggs to central midfield alongside Darren Fletcher.

Wayne Rooney, now recovered from the stomach bug that kept the striker out of United’s disappointing draw with Fulham last weekend, will partner Dimitar Berbatov in attack, while Nani should return to the starting line-up in place of Ji-Sung Park.

Ferguson, uncharacteristically critical of his team following last Sunday’s draw with Fulham, is seeking an improvement in both performance and fitness, with several key players close to a return.

“Things are looking up here,” the manager told the press on Friday.

“Rio Ferdinand has trained this week, which was a big surprise to me. He’s made fantastic progress. Anderson is training with the first team and he had a bit of a reserve game of course on Tuesday so that’s really good news.

“We’ve got no injuries from last week’s game. Wayne Rooney has trained all week and he’s back.”

“We’ve always had really good games against West Ham and we expect that again. Obviously we were really disappointed with last Sunday, throwing away two points like that.

“Its uncharacteristic but its early season and I do think some of the players needed the game, the second half of the game dropped. We think they’ll be much better tomorrow.”

However, Ferguson is likely concerned about the form of his central defenders, with Jonny Evans given a particularly hard game by Fulham’s Bobby Zamora. The young Irishman found himself the wrong side for Fulham’s first equaliser and was unable to deal with Zamora’s physical game.

Good news then that Ferdinand is perhaps only two weeks from full fitness having trained with the first team squad this week. Although not able to feature against West Ham, the defender’s progress is speedier than anticipated.

“I must admit he hadn’t done anything football wise when we spoke last week,” added Ferguson.

“Maybe when he read what I said it gave him a bit of a kick. He’s come in and trained all week. He’ll train with the reserves today, and won’t be involved tomorrow [against West Ham] but we’ll try and get him a game in the next two weeks.”

Unsurprisingly Ferdinand’s defensive partner Nemanja Vidic is delighted with the England captain’s imminent return, with the pair having played so few games together over the past year. While Ferdinand has suffered with back, groin and knee problems, Vidic spent much of last season on the sidelines with a mystery nerve complaint.

However, the Serbian has no concerns about adapting to the old partnership when Ferdinand returns after the international break.

“We’ve played alongside each other for over four and a half years so it’s easy to play together, even when you’ve been out for a while,” stand-in captain Vidic told ManUtd.com

“We’ve shown over the years that, as a partnership, we have a good relationship, but we obviously need to reach the right form and you need to play every week to get that. Hopefully we can.”

It’s no concern for today’s game of course, although Evans’ performance will be under ever greater scrutiny.

West Ham travel north having made its worst ever start to a Premier League campaign, with captain Scott Parker admitting he is “dreading” the thought of the trip to Old Trafford. The Hammers play Chelsea, Stoke away and Tottenham Hotspur next, facing the very real prospect of beginning the season with six defeats.

Grant travels without injured quartet Jack Collison, Zavon Hines, Peter Kurucz and Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Opposition
Team – 451 – Green; Reid, Gabbidon, Upson, Ilunga; Faubert, Parker, Noble, Kovac, Dyer; Cole. Subs from – Barrera, Piquionne, Sears, Stech, Tomkins, Boa Morte, McCarthy, Ben Haim, Spector, Da Costa, Stanislas, Daprelà, Obinna, Nouble.

Officials
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistant referees: Adam Watts & Martin Yerby
Fourth official: Michael Jones

Form
United – WWW
West Ham – LL