Premier League 2018-19: Tactical Preview of West Ham United vs Manchester United
The clash between West Ham United and Manchester United is one that is going to have potential significance in the Premier League race, as both Manuel Pelligrini and Jose Mourinho are under the pump due to their sub-par starts to the season.
United, in particular, have massively underperformed, having taken 5 fewer points against the same opposition they gained points against last season. Moreover, following their loss on penalties to Derby, Jose will be expected to bag the 3 points before playing Valencia midweek in the Champions League.
West Ham, on the other hand, has had a whirlwind start to the season and have been a mess at the back. However, their performance against Chelsea showed that they are capable of sitting back and defending in a disciplined manner. If not for Arnautovic's injury they may have bagged the 3 points as Antonio squandered some sitters.
Pellegrini will play a 4-1-4-1 formation, similar to the Chelsea game and try frustrating United by not providing any space in between the lines. The key player in midfield will be Declan Rice, who will have to shuttle across and protect the back four and also take up a position as a third centre-back when West Ham tries playing out of the back. This is a role not unfamiliar to him as he is classified as a CB by trade.
The wide players Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson will be expected to track the runs of Shaw and Valencia and swiftly counter when West Ham win the ball back. Rest assured they will have plenty of space to run into as United will try out pressing West Ham in midfield by committing bodies forward.
United, on the other hand, need to be wary of the threat Arnautovic possesses. His intelligent movement and ability to finish is something that Fellaini, Smalling and Lindelof need to be careful of and they cannot give him room to turn or shoot. The United defenders will need to physically bully him and ensure he doesn't get to the second balls.
Going forward United need to try playing with a quick tempo and play cross-field balls to either Alexis, Lingard, Shaw or Valencia, who can then use their pace and guile to drive to the byline and cross.
The quick passing will not only challenge the West Ham players transverse movement but also their lateral movement and thus tire them as the game progresses. This is where bringing Martial and Rashford off the bench may pay dividends for Mourinho.
Pogba will also play a key role as he will look to receive the ball and either dink it over the top for Lukaku/Lingard or play it across the field to the wide players. He needs to ensure that he doesn't dwell on the ball too long otherwise he will be closed down quickly, similar to how Hazard was.
I expect this to be a cagey affair with the team scoring first holding on for dear life. The first goal will be crucial and thus both teams will need to tread with caution until that happens. This game will not be pretty to watch as both teams are desperate for the points.
United, in particular, cannot drop off the pace because their mind is on the UCL game and they need to get the job done. West Ham can use this as a springboard to gain momentum into the next part of the season, where their fixtures get better.
Probable Line-up for West Ham: Fabianski; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Diop, Masuaku; Rice; Yarmalenko, Noble, Obiang, Anderson; Arnautovic.
Probable Lineup for Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Fellaini, Fred, Pogba; Lingard, Lukaku, Alexis.