Big Sam travels to Old Trafford on Saturday still flush from his side’s comprehensive demolition of Liverpool at Anfield. Given Van Gaal’s difficulties of late, it’s hard not to think that Allardyce eyes a similar outcome at this fixture and United fans are probably similarly apprehensive that another big scalp may be claimed.
To see how Manchester United fans may be thinking about this game, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this fixture last season, to see what players were picked for the lineup by the average fan last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite Club and pick lineups, bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating a redeveloped version – we’ll keep you posted on when it’s going to re-launch.
This fixture was played on Saturday 21 December 2013 last season and ended in a 3-1 win for the home side, a Danny Welbeck opener followed by goals from Januzaj and Ashley Young, before Carlton Cole grabbed a late consolation for the Hammers.
Of the starting 11 picked by MUFC fans last year, only 5 players still remain at the Club so whatever lineup Van Gaal goes for this weekend is going to look substantially different to the one chosen by the fans and Moyes last season.
Formation: 4-4-2 by far the most popular choice
49 per cent of United fans went for a 4-4-2 formation for this game last season, with a more attacking 4-3-3 much further behind, selected by only 14 per cent.
Goalkeeper: de Gea the only choice in goal
Fans did not go for any surprises in goal, with David de Gea the choice of 99 per cent of MUFC fans for the lineup, making him the most popular United player. Anders Lindegaard made up the remaining 1 per cent, but could console himself that he was the natural second-choice keeper, his 99 per cent rating for the subs bench putting him well ahead of Ben Amos. Moyes agreed with the fans and de Gea finished the game between the posts.
Defence: Three of United’s back four no longer at the club
Patrice Evra was the most popular defender (and 3rd-most popular player) with MUFC fans, polling a 91 per cent rating for the lineup. Nemanja Vidić was the second-most popular defender, with 83 per cent, while Rafael (65 per cent) and Rio Ferdinand (61 per cent) were grouped together much further behind.
Of these four, only 3rd-choice defender Rafael remains at the Club, with Evra and Vidić moving to Italy (Juventus and Inter Milan respectively), while Rio Ferdinand makes do with the exotic surrounds at Loftus Road.
Moyes fielded Evra and Rafael, but instead opted for Jonny Evans (47 per cent approval with fans) and Chris Smalling (only 9 per cent) ahead of the other two.
Midfield: Then there were two
Antonio Valencia was the most popular midfielder, with a 76 per cent rating with United fans. Tom Cleverley (71 per cent) rated a close second, with Adnan Januzaj (50 per cent) and Shinji Kagawa (49 per cent) grouped together further behind.
United’s midfield has been similarly gutted, with Tom Cleverley now plying his trade for a resurgent Aston Villa, while Shinji Kagawa has returned to the familiar shores of Borussia Dortmund
Moyes made one change to the fans’ lineup, fielding Phil Jones (45 per cent) in a defensive midfield role ahead of Kagawa. Moyes’ only summer signing of note, Marouane Fellaini, just missed the cut with fans, losing out by a single one per cent to Kagawa.
Forwards: And then there was one
With Robin van Persie already missing for a month with a thigh strain, Wayne Rooney was the clear fan favourite upfront, his 98 per cent rating making him the 2nd-most popular United player.
Danny Welbeck, now at Arsenal, was the second-most popular striker, polling a respectable 64 per cent with MUFC fans, well ahead of the beleaguered Hernández (42 per cent).