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PREVIEW: West Ham vs. Manchester United

A patched up Manchester United will travel to Upton Park with a single objective in mind – to grab all three points. The current league leaders are 5 points ahead of the closest rival Arsenal, though the Gunners have a game in hand. West Ham, on the other hand, are enjoying a decent spell in the premier league at the moment. With just 8 matches left in the premier league, both the teams will lock horns on Saturday with completely different objectives in mind; United to win a record 19th and West Ham to prolong their stay in the Premier League for at least one more season.

WEST HAM UNITED:
(W,W,W,L,D)

After a poor first half in the 2010-11 campaign, where Avram Grant’s men found themselves in the drop zone for the entire time, WHU have been unbeaten in their last 4 Premier League matches, including a 3-1 win over Liverpool at home and a 0-0 draw away at White Hart Lane.West Ham will welcome back a former icon for Saturday’s clash, as Italian Paolo Di Canio will be in the stands, supporting his old club.

Demba Ba: 4 goals in 4 starts for WHU

WHU have seen their fortunes overturn since the arrival of Demba Ba in the January transfer window. Signing Robbie Keane and Wayne Bridge on loan in January has been a master move by Grant. Demba Ba has scored in each of his 4 starts for WHU and must be smacking his lips at the prospect of facing an injury hit Manchester United defence.

Goalkeeper Robert Green looks to be in the form of his life this season. The former England No.1 made some unbelievable saves at the Lane to steal an invaluable point against Spurs. The post match stats showed that Spurs fired 14 shots on target, only to be denied on every occasion by Green. Scott Parker is also enjoying a decent spell. The inspirational midfielder/playmaker was called up to the England squad to face Wales. And for once, Capello’s decision proved correct as Parker ended up being arguably the most impressive player on the pitch. West Ham are a team of quality players who can create trouble for Manchester United. The likes of Obinna, Spector, Boa Morte etc. have the ability to trouble even the best of teams in the league. The return of Thomas Hitzlsperger has further strengthened the team.

On injury front, midfielders Jack Collinson and Junior Stanislas are set to miss out, while Frederic Piquionne could return from a foot injury. Carlton Cole is out too. West Ham will gain confidence from the fact that they thrashed a visiting United team in the Carling Cup 4-0 earlier this season.

“One thing I’ve learnt in my career is that, when the opportunity comes, you need to grab it with two hands.” -Scott Parker

Probable XI: Green, Upson, DaCosta, Bridge, Jacobsen, Parker, Hitzlsperger, Noble, O’Neil, Piquionne, Ba

MANCHESTER UNITED:
(W,W,W,L,L)

Having scraped past Bolton, courtesy a late Berbatov goal, Manchester United will try to get all three points from this tricky away fixture. United bounced back after consecutive losses against Chelsea and Liverpool in the premier league to conjure three important wins – against Arsenal in FA Cup quarterfinal, against Marseille in Champions League Round of 16 and against Bolton in the premier league.

a Dimitar Berbatov beauty puts United 3-0 up when the teams played at OT earlier this season

Rio Ferdinand is certain to miss the trip with a calf injury (which Sir Alex rues might keep Rio out for the entire season). John O’Shea and Rafael Da Silva will accompany Rio on the sidelines after the duo suffered almost similar injuries against Marseille in the Champions League clash. Johnny Evans earned himself a straight red against Bolton and will miss this match due to suspension. Sir Alex confirmed that Brown too is out with an injury for this match. This leaves United with Smalling, Vidic Evra and Fabio as fully fit defenders. Vidic returned from a calf injury earlier this week to play the entire 90 minutes for Serbia. Looks like Fabio will have to play at the right back position.

Sir Alex has accepted that it would be difficult for his side to emulate the famous treble winning 1999 season due to injury to key players.

Furthermore, a shoulder injury to the long term absentee, Owen Hargreaves might delay his return to United first team. Paul Scholes is serving his 2 match suspension while Brazilian Anderson is still out with a knee injury. Park Ji Sung might return for the first time since Christmas. Darren Fletcher might return after suffering a flu that kept him out for a few weeks. United’s attacking unit is fully fit and with an eye on midweek Champions League quarterfinal against Chelsea, Michael Owen might get a nod ahead of Hernandez. Hernandez was involved in Mexico’s international squad over the past two weeks and might experience fatigue on his return to Old Trafford. Dimitar Berbatov is desperate to return to starting XI after being kept out by a string of brilliant performances by Hernandez and is certain to start. Thankfully, none of United players suffered any major injury while on international duty over the past two weeks.

“The friendlies are a waste of time as far as I am concerned. We always say that. It is understandable for the coach.” Sir Alex

Probable XI: Van der Sar, Brown, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Park, Fletcher, Giggs, Valencia, Berbatov

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