Match preview: West Ham v Manchester United at the London Stadium.
Manchester United head to the London Stadium tomorrow to take on David Moyes’ in-form West Ham.
Sunday’s instalment will be the latest in a somewhat lopsided rivalry that emerged from bitter seeds over thirty years ago.
And it’s an unusual kind of enmity that shouldn’t really exist at all. After all, the two clubs are over two hundred miles apart and, aside from the odd feisty cup encounter, have never really competed for the same trophies.
Whereas Arsenal and Chelsea transcended the North/South divide by consistently challenging United for Premier League titles, the rivalry between the Red Devils and Hammers seems to come from a sequence of events crammed into a six-year period between the late 80s and mid-90s.
If there was a starting point for the hostilities, it would probably be Paul Ince’s controversial switch from Upton Park to Old Trafford back in 1989.
The midfielder became an overnight Hammers’ villain by being photographed in a United shirt before a move had been concluded between the two clubs.
This act of ‘treachery’ ensured a white-hot reception every time Ince and co arrived at Upton Park. Between 1992 and 1995, the Hammers seemed to derive a perverse amount of pleasure from being the side that specialised in derailing United’s title bids.
In both ’92 and ’95 they were the team that popped United’s bubble, with the latter – a final day draw featuring an inspired display from Hammers’ keeper Ludek Miklosko – being one of the most sickening gut punches of the entire Fergie-era.
For United fans, those high-profile defeats live long in the memory and give the slightly false impression that the Hammers are an enduring bogey team.
In reality, the east Londoners have won just 7 out of 50 PL games between the two sides, with United winning 30.
West Ham are currently winless in the last three games between the two sides, with the most recent contest being a 1-0 victory for the Red Devils at Old Trafford in March.
Ole Gunnar Solakjaer’s men are currently unbeaten away from home in 28 games – a league record.
Over the course of that away run they’ve conceded just 19 goals, with 13 clean sheets recorded.
The Red Devils are unbeaten in the last 16 Premier League games they’ve played on a Sunday.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 5 goals in 4 games against West Ham.
Bruno Fernandes is unbeaten in all 27 Premier League away appearances, which is a record for a player starting with a new club in England.
David Moyes is yet to record a win over United since leaving the club in 2014. His record is D2 L5.
On paper, two Premier League form sides are going head to head. West Ham are unbeaten in 7 PL games, which is their best league run in 5 years.
The Hammers are high in confidence after an impressive 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb mid-week.
West Ham’s top scorer is Michail Antonio, with 4 goals. Manchester United’s top scorer is Bruno Fernandes, also on 4 goals.
Top scorer Michail Antonio is unavailable for West Ham (suspended). Vladimir Coufal, Angelo Ogbonna and Said Benrahma should return after sitting out the midweek victory.
For United, there’s still no Edinson Cavani, Alex Telles or Scott McTominay. Marcus Rashford and Dean Henderson are still unavailable, as medium to long-term absentees.
Who could forget the stunning half-way line effort from Wayne Rooney during United’s 2-0 win at Upton Park back in 2014? Certainly not David Moyes, who was coming towards the end of his brief spell as United manager…
When Wayne Rooney did 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 against West Ham…
When Wayne Rooney did 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 against West Ham 🤯🔴 pic.twitter.com/6uzKhrqZLB
— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) September 17, 2021
From the moment Aaron Wan Bissaka’s reckless challenge doomed United to an uphill grind in their mid-week defeat to Young Boys, the narrative around Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has quickly shifted.
The Norwegian’s failure to find the formation and personnel to keep the Swiss side at arm’s length has reheated the simmering debate about his tactical limitations.
He’ll need to steady the ship quickly if he’s going to ease the mounting pressure and has a full plate of issues to address.
Will Raphael Varane be brought straight back into the side? Will he persevere with the struggling Jadon Sancho, or bring in-form Mason Greenwood back into the fray?
And, most importantly, can he find the right balance between defence and attack among his underwhelming midfield options?
The United boss has developed the happy charm of being able to grind out a win when it’s most needed and he’ll need to repeat the trick tomorrow if he wants to silence the re-energised doubters.