West Ham United vs Manchester United – Preview
Scene-setter: Louis van Gaal’s men know victory will keep the battle with Manchester City for fourth spot in the Reds’ own hands going into the final-day clash with Bournemouth. Of course, the main focus of attention for this fixture has been on it being West Ham’s last match at Upton Park, while the Hammers’ shock 4-1 reverse to Swansea City at the weekend has, realistically, ended their own hopes of a Champions League place. Slaven Bilic’s side will also be out for revenge after the Reds’ Emirates FA Cup quarter-final replay win last month.
Form guide: United are in good heart after a run of five wins from the last six games and only one defeat in the last 11 outings. The win at Norwich on Saturday may not have been pretty but it was a third triumph away from Old Trafford in succession, hopefully easing any concern about form on the road. West Ham were unbeaten at home since August before the FA Cup loss so Saturday’s heavy defeat to Swansea came out of the blue. It was the Hammers’ first reverse in the league since 6 February, against Southampton, although they have only won two of the last seven matches in the division.
Last meeting: Few pundits gave United much hope of knocking the hosts out in the FA Cup quarter-final replay after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford but last month’s 2-1 success was a real morale booster for the Reds. Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini provided a two-goal lead before James Tomkins pulled one back late on in a great advertisement for the competition with David De Gea performing heroics in goal.
Latest team news: Daley Blind and Marcus Rashford were rested at Carrow Road while Anthony Martial withdrew before the game due to injury. There must be major doubt over Matteo Darmian’s participation after he hurt his ankle at the weekend while Marouane Fellaini is still suspended. Luke Shaw and Bastian Schweinsteiger remain sidelined while Adnan Januzaj was back in the first-team squad after proving his fitness in the Under-21s’ 1-0 win at Chelsea. West Ham are without first-choice goalkeeper Adrian so Republic of Ireland no.1 Darren Randolph will continue to deputise.
View from the dressing room: “It’s a big deal, being there [at West Ham] so for long and so many memories – some good, some indifferent. It’s a massive night for them. It’s probably time for them to move on and I must admit I preferred the older Upton Park when it was much tighter, it was more intimidating and more hostile. I’ve got some great memories there.” – Michael Carrick
Opposition manager: Slaven Bilic has worked wonders at West Ham since replacing Sam Allardyce and ensured the club will move into the Olympic Stadium in great spirits. A former centre-half for the club, he also represented Everton in the Premier League and helped Croatia to third place at the 1998 World Cup. The 47-year-old has also coached his country and was with Turkish club Besiktas before taking over the reins with the East Londoners.
Trivia: United are unbeaten in the last 14 league visits to the Bolyen Ground, winning 11 of these. The Reds have posted the best Premier League record on Tuesdays (2.19 points on average) while West Ham have the lowest figure of teams to play at least 25 matches in the division on the second day of the week (0.93).
Danger man: Dimitri Payet has been one of the signings of the season and is the main creative force for Bilic’s impressive side. The France international has made a habit of scoring free-kicks, as the Reds found in the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford, and is looking to earn a place in the hosts’ Euro 2016 squad. A threat from set-pieces and outfield play, he is idolised by the Hammers faithful.
Referee: Mike Dean is the man in the middle for the key fixture. The experienced official has taken charge of three United games in 2016 – the 3-3 draw at Newcastle United and defeats to West Brom and Tottenham. Dean’s other two matches involving van Gaal’s men earlier in the 2015/16 season both ended in victories – against Aston Villa and West Brom.
Rivals watch: There are three other Barclays Premier League midweek fixtures before the season finale on Sunday but none of them will have any impact on United’s position. Liverpool entertain Chelsea, Sunderland face Everton and Norwich meet Watford.