West Ham are arriving in Manchester on a hot streak, with 13 points gained from their last six matches. Those points include two emotional victories over Tottenham and Everton. Manchester United, on the other hand, stagger back home after an away loss to West Brom and defeat in the first leg of the Europa League last-sixteen match against Liverpool.
The two teams could not have different forms at the moment. Manchester United were saved from an even worse aggregate score line in the 2-0 loss to Liverpool by goalkeeper David De Gea. De Gea’s opposite, Adrian, kept the window open for West Ham’s late and ferocious three-goal comeback over Everton with his save of Romelu Lukaku’s penalty attempt. West Ham, while dominated by Everton in the first 75 minutes of the match, came alive after Adrian’s penalty save and displayed the quick strike ability the Hammers are now capable of.
For Sunday’s match against Manchester United, West Ham see Enner Valencia, Victor Moses and Joey O’Brien return following injury layoffs. Winston Reid could also return, but defenders James Collins and James Tomkins are injured and Sam Byram is cup-tied.
Cheikhou Kouyate has filled in at centre-back during the injury crisis, and could be seen starting in the back again against a Manchester United team without Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata. A back four is likely with the return of Joey O’Brien to slot in at right back.
That’s why, as the Hammers and 9,000 West Ham fans enter Old Trafford, it will not matter that West Ham are winless in their last nine trips to play Manchester United.
It is a different feel around the West Ham camp under Slaven Bilic, and Manchester United’s form matters much less than West Ham’s strong form. Four straight victories and the return of striker Enner Valencia will only increase the attacking, confident football.
“It would be dangerous, suicidal, if we approach the game like ‘they are playing badly, we are playing well, and we are going to cruise it’. No way we will do that,” Bilic assured.
Late in the Everton match, Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll were both instrumental in the goals against Everton. Sakho scored the second goal and fed Payet for the third goal after Carroll headed the long ball down from Aaron Cresswell. It was yet another example of Dimitri Payet’s magic.
It will be interesting to see who Bilic decides to start up front, but Sakho and Carroll could put a lot of pressure on a Manchester United defense lacking Luke Shaw and Ashley Young.
Michail Antonio has the chance to extend his goal streak to four straight games against potential suitors Manchester United. The 25-year-old winger has been a revelation for the Hammers since arriving from Nottingham Forest.
“I’d take the FA Cup because it is something that is forever in your track record and, in this case, gives you access to the Europa League,” Adrian said. “But we will not give up anything, I insist. It is the final season at Upton Park and we should give the fans a historic season to be remembered in the best way possible.”
Score Prediction: 2-1, and this time, West Ham won’t need last-minute heroics (Except maybe on defense).