Stadium: Old Trafford
Referee: Phil Dowd
Kick-off: 1:35 AM (IST), Thursday, 17th of January
Last time out, Manchester United thought they were heading out of yet another domestic competition, before a trademark last-gasp equaliser from their new messiah, Robin van Persie, saved their blushes and earned them a second shot at qualification at Old Trafford.
An early Tom Cleverley strike was not sufficient for a crisp-passing United side, who conceded the lead to two identical and powerful James Collins headers, which shall definitely not be the case this time, with the defender ruled out through injury. The Red Devils will be looking to even numbers out in FA Cup history with the Hammers, as they currently trail the London side 4 – 3 on number of wins out of 10 meetings.
Manchester United have begun the year in pretty much the same way they ended the previous one; scoring plenty of goals and not really managing to shut teams out at the back. A run of eight games unbeaten and just one loss in their last twelve makes the home side favourite to progress against a West Ham side who have stuttered lately. It may be worrying for United though, that the goal-contribution from midfield has been outdone by the defence, but as long as the goals do come, one need not worry too much over the source. What will be of concern though is the fact that United have conceded 7 goals in the past five fixtures, in spite of managing two clean sheets. However, United did manage a clean sheet when the Hammers visited Old Trafford earlier in the season, and whoever starts at the back will take heart from that fact.
West Ham United: L L W D L
With just one win in their last six league matches, West Ham have well and truly imploded, slipping to 11th position in the table, just 7 points off the relegation zone, which they may soon find themselves embroiled in, if this form continues. In fact, the draw against the league leaders in the original tie of this fixture has been one of few solaces for the West Ham fans, although even they wouldn’t be hoping for a similarly optimistic result at Old Trafford. West Ham have been leaking goals after solid defensive performances in the opening half of the season, and have been made to pay dearly even by the likes of Sunderland and Reading. Against a side with an accomplished attack, such lapses are almost certain to be punished.
Manchester United: Jonny Evans, Anders Lindegaard, Ashley Young.
Even with Wayne Rooney likely to return tonight, one would do well to keep an eye out for the Mexican who has been in excellent touch whenever called upon. With 12 goals in all competitions this season, from just 12 starts and 9 substitute appearances, his conversion rate has been terrific and worthy of a regular first team role in most clubs across the world. Yet, he will again look to prove his mettle by troubling the West Ham defenders with his pace, incessant running and impeccable headers.
A return to his former club seems to have rejuvenated the former England international, who assisted both of James Collins’ goals in the reverse fixture at Upton Park. Regular playing time will no doubt improve his match-fitness, and with plenty of talent lying dormant, Manchester United will be hoping that tonight isn’t one of the nights he begins to hit his stride.
A calm win for the home team. After plenty of roller coaster rides, most of which they managed to survive unscathed, United seem to be settling into their stride with some clinical performances over the past few weeks, although defensive concerns do remain. Thus, with an eye on the Tottenham trip over the weekend, it is understandable that the home side will not make an attempt to overly exert themselves, as long as they manage a win. Whether that will be sufficient to overcome Sam Allardyce’s men will be interesting to watch.Published 16 Jan 2013, 11:28 IST