West Ham will be Manchester United’s toughest opponent in the Premier league when they square off Sunday. Top of the league United will have their first real test in the league and will hope to bounce back from a shocking defeat in Switzerland on Tuesday.
West Ham are not one of the traditional big six clubs, but they finished sixth last season and are playing in Europe. Both sides have not been defeated in the league. West Ham have two wins and draws, their last match was one of those draws to Southampton.
On Thursday evening they went to the Croatian capital, Zagreb and beat Dinamo 2-0. An impressive win for West Ham on the road against a really good European team. It is always tough for British and Western European sides to play in Eastern Europe, so it is an impressive result for West Ham, who have been dropped early in Europa League previously after having great Premier League seasons.
West Ham Squad
Jesse Lingard had a huge impact for West Ham when he was brought in on loan in January. Lingard had an outstanding goal and assist output and was always involved in chances. Nothing materialized this summer obviously and West Ham seem to have gotten off fine without Lingard.
They have replaced him in that CAM position with the return of form with Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals has looked good early and Said Benrahma, who they bought from Brentford two summers ago, looks like he is getting comfortable with the league and looks more like he did in the Championship.
Jarrod Bowen has also progressed in his maturation since being bought from Hull, he is deadly on the right. West Ham have really scouted well in the Championship. Aaron Cresswell came from Ipswich, when they were in the Championship, and is one of the most underrated left-backs in the league. His left foot is really good, his crosses and long shots are deadly.
Michael Antonio is also another player bought from the Championship. He was bought as a right wing back from Nottingham Forest and is now West Ham’s greatest goal scorer. He scored against Dinamo Zagreb after pouncing on a back pass, he is a willing runner, scores any way he can and is in tremendous form at the moment.
West Ham also have scouted well in Europe. They have got Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal from the Czech Republic and were fantastic last season. They got another Czech, Alex Kral on loan who has yet to appear, but looked really good in the Euros. The Czechs had a surprisingly good Euros knocking out the Dutch in the opening knockout round.
They also brought in Nikola Vlasic from CSKA Moscow. West Ham bought the Croatian international for €30mil on deadline day. He will provide competition in the attacking roles and probably because he is Croatian started in Zagreb on Thursday.
Andriy Yarmelenko rounds out the attacking options and you always have to account for his left foot, it is deadly if he is able to cut in. Lukasz Fabianski is a solid goalie and West Ham also had more good business when they brought in Kurt Zouma from Chelsea.
Zouma had a good loan at West Ham a couple of seasons ago and is paired well with either Craig Dawson, Angelo Ogbonna or even Issa Diop. West Ham have good depth in every position. Ryan Fredericks is a good compliment to Coufal and Alphonse Areola might be one the best back up keepers in the league.
All of these players gel with the most important player in the squad Declan Rice. Rice has been linked for good reason with Manchester United for some time. As well as other top clubs, but the only other club that would rival United for Rice is Chelsea. Rice spent time in Chelsea’s academy from 2006-2014.
The future might be a little uncertain for Rice, but at the present he is an absolute beast in the midfield. His talents were on complete display at the Euros. His ability to run with the ball in the midfield, he even takes on full backs with powering runs, he can hold the ball up and he covers so well.
Rice would probably walk on to any team in the Premier League including Manchester City and Liverpool who have great central midfield talent. Rice is like a Jordan Henderson with what seems like unlimited stamina. He might not be as good of a passer as Henderson, but defensively he offers a little bit more in my opinion.
It is a shame you can not compare him to a United midfielder, but that is why he is linked with Manchester United. Rice scored on Thursday against Dinamo, he intercepted the ball in the middle of the field, ran at the defense and finished on his left foot. He is a game changer in the midfield and United need to track him well.
Mark Noble is the club captain and long time veteran in the club and is almost like a player/coach to Manager David Moyes, who has rejuvenated his career in London.
How Man Utd And West Ham Match Up
In the disappointing opening to the Champions League David Wagner and Young Boys matched Man Utd in formation. West Ham will do as well as they also operate in the 4-2-3-1. Rice and Soucek complete each other well in the pivot and Lanzini and Benrahma roam in the CAM spot.
If Aaron Wan-Bissaka does not get red carded, United probably do not lose that game. So Wagner matching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in formation is not indicative of the result, but Solskjaer should worry about the capabilities of Moyes team in the formation.
Soucek and Rice are tall and like to get in the box and attack the posts. They also do well in understanding when to provide cover when the other makes the run. They have wide players who like to cut in and the full backs like to overlap and also put crosses in from different angles, they do not always have to overlap. Cresswell puts in a good cross from anywhere.
Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane are fantastic in the air and should quell those threats, but if one of those runners attack the full backs or a trailing midfielder like Fred, they might fine success. At one point you can see a Nemanja Matic even off the bench come on to help defend. Craig Dawson is all great at attacking set pieces for West Ham.
Scott McTominay and Alex Telles have returned to training with the first team and McTominay is also another big body who can help with West Ham’s height. If McTominay or either Matic start look for Fred to try and get on the ball as well United to pass the ball around.
This could fit West Ham’s style of play, they like to counter, like most 4-2-3-1 sides and if they do not create the chance on the counter, West Ham do not mind being fouled for those dead piece situations. The sides could create a gridlock where both sides can not and will not let the other break each other down.
The substitutions, when they happen will try and exploit the other, so it will be interesting to see who flinches first, Moyes or Solskjaer if they can not break each other down. United should be confident that Ronaldo, Bruno, Pogba and Sancho should pick the lock, but West Ham play good defensively as a unit.
United should also be in confident in defense. Antonio is suspended after picking up a late red card against Southampton. There is really no back up striker for West Ham, the only negative thing about their recent business. Yarmelenko has been used in the past as a back up striker by Moyes.
Varane and Maguire should bully the center of the field as a result. Antonio is always trying to get in behind and has good hold up play it will be hard to replace him. They could also go with Bowen or Vlasic at striker, maybe with pace they can attack Maguire, but they might not be used to being central and knowing when to make those runs.
United should be high up the pitch because of the lack of the threat and look to get on the ball and make things happen with all the great creative players they have.
This is a great match for United against an inform team playing in Europe. It will be a good indicator of how things might go against a Tottenham or an Everton.