The Premier League resumes after a rather eventful set of midweek cup fixtures – and it is Manchester United kicking off the match-day as they head south to play West Ham United at the London Stadium.
After a nightmare start to the campaign, Pellegrini’s boys are settling down to a rhythm at last. Beating Everton at Goodison Park was an impressive result but it was their fighting draw against Chelsea that showed that the Hammers could eke out a good performance and outcome if they really wanted to.
Add to that, their record 8-0 victory in midweek, albeit against a team from the lower division could not have come at a better time for the Chilean boss and his London side as some of the pressure looks to be off his shoulders at last. Yet, there is still a long way to go in the season and Saturday’s encounter and the result will prove to be a massive indicator as to how far they could actually go in terms of fulfilling their lofty Premier League ambitions.
Manchester United simply could not catch a break at the moment. The club found themselves in yet another controversy after a WiFi failure at Old Trafford, following the disappointing draw against Wolverhampton, led to a training ground argument between the manager and vice-captain, whose relationship has already come under a lot of pressure in the last few weeks and months.
Going forward, this dynamic is crucial as Mourinho is still trying to figure out how to get the best out of his key attacking quartet of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial – all of whom are capable of notching up double figures in goals and assists.
United remarkably neither have an identity nor a clear shape with and without possession that they could then work towards perfecting, which makes it all the more difficult for the supporters to get behind, given the time and resources the Portuguese manager has had at his disposal to improve on the squad – even with the caveat of the footballing disagreements that exist between the manager and the higher executives. Mourinho is still largely backed by the hierarchy – but all of that could change if the results continue to underwhelm as they have been in this campaign so far.
Manuel Pellegrini is without some of his key players in Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini, Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere and Carlos Sanchez for the early welcome of Manchester United. For Manchester United forward Chicharito and Marko Arnautovic will both be assessed, though the latter could be fit to feature despite missing the 8-0 win over Macclesfield on Wednesday.
Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic are both available to head coach Jose Mourinho following respective bans, with the latter in line to start in midfield – with Sergio Romero now suspended following his sending off in the defeat to Derby.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in 17 of their last 18 matches against West Ham in all competitions.
- West Ham have beaten Manchester United in only one of their last 19 Premier League matches, winning 3-2 in their final match at the Boleyn Ground in May 2016.
Mikhail Antonio – West Ham United
Antonio looks set to start as doubts persist concerning Marko Arnautovic’s fitness ahead of the visit of Manchester United. Antonio found a bit of his form back by scoring in midweek and will be raring to go once again against a side he could really test – with his directness on the ball and the ability to penetrate defences with his style of play. He is an asset to West Ham when played to his strengths and Pellegrini is too smart not to have realised that.
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
The Red Devils may have suffered a loss – but the good news for United is Anthony Martial is on his way back to what he can be on a football pitch. The Frenchman is all about quick bursts of energy that can throw a defence off-guard but his cold and calculated finishing in front of goal was what really caught the attention in his first season at the club. While that will come with more game time on a regular basis, it is imperative that Martial capitalises on the poor form of Alexis Sanchez and fill his boots with some goals to go with positive performances.
Manchester United are kind of unpredictable at the moment and there are systemic problems at that club, but it would be foolish to write them off at this stage even against a resurgent West Ham United.
West Ham United 1-3 Manchester United