Letting a lead slip twice, missing a penalty and conceding an 89th minute equaliser all resulted in Manchester United throwing away ‘silly points’ against Fulham, but Sir Alex Ferguson will be in no mood for niceties as West Ham visit Old Trafford on Saturday in a match at would seem the perfect antidote to a disappointing visit to London last weekend.
After an encouraging start to the season question marks are already being asked of United’s title credentials given the form of rivals Chelsea, whose goal difference already reads +12, but Nemanja Vidic is confident United can learn from the Fulham result, stating,
“It’s hard to take. I think we would have been happy with the result – if not the performance – if we had won, but there are definitely some points to take from the game. The goal we lost at the end was a shame and we probably need to improve at set-pieces.”
The visit of the Hammers may prove to be an excellent opportunity for some of the fringe players to make their case for inclusion in the first team, though we can be sure Edwin van der Sar will be between the stick come kick off.
The back four in front of him will probably remain consistent, but Chris Smalling is pushing Jonny Evans for a chance to prove his worth. Rio Ferdinand is still out with a knee injury but is nearing a comeback, and Gary Neville started for the reserves in midweek against Manchester City, so he will be back in contention soon as well.
Much has been made of Paul Scholes’ recent form, but the midfielder may be given a breather as either Ryan Giggs or Michael Carrick step into the midfield. Nani and Antonio Valencia will no doubt occupy the wing berths as United have a perfect opportunity to increase their goal difference.
Anderson, despite playing for the reserves is still short of fitness after only returning to training this week, but Owen Hargreaves remains out.
Wayne Rooney is available after his stomach bug and will be hoping to stop his goal drought, he has failed to score for club or country in 13 matches in addition, he has provided just one assist in United’s last nine league matches. He will likely be partnered by Dimitar Berbatov or Javier Hernandez in attack.
West Ham boss Avram Grant is expecting a tough match, “You know that it will not be an easy fixture, especially for us who are trying to get everything more organised and are only at the beginning of a process. It’s not an easy game, but I don’t think Manchester United will have an easy life tomorrow.”
Though Scott Parker, who will be making his 250th career league start, is “dreading” the match.
Matthew Upson may be fit to return following the facial injury he suffered after being kicked in the face during the match with Bolton.
Winston Reid could also return to the side along with Robert Green and Kieron Dyer who were rested for Tuesday’s Carling Cup win over Oxford United. Tal Ben Haim and Manuel da Costa may also be in contention for Saturday’s game following short spells on the treatment table.
Thomas Hitzlsperger is out with a thigh injury, he joins Jack Collison and Zavon Hines who are both on the long-term injured list.
The Hammers are without an away win in the league since the first day of last season when they beat Wolves 2-0, a run of 19 matches.
Last season Ferguson’s men did the double over the Hammers winning 4-0 at Upton Park in December and then a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford in February. United have also won their last five matches against West Ham and have scored 14 goals in those games to the Hammers’ one.
Prediction: 3-0 United
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, O’Shea, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani; Berbatov, Rooney
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