Tactically speaking - Man Utd

Tactically speaking - Manchester United

The starting XI

De Gea

Rafael  Fletcher  Rojo  Shaw

Blind  Herrera  Di Maria


Van Persie  Falcao

The formation

Manchester United's formation has been a source of much fascination since the arrival of Louis van Gaal as manager and the influx of big-money summer signings.

In last weekend's 5-3 defeat at Leicester City, the Red Devils employed a fluid system that made it difficult to pinpoint exactly where each player was lined up formation-wise.

However, educated observers have labelled the starting formation as a 4-3-1-2, albeit with attacking midfielder Angel di Maria lined up alongside defensive midfielders Daley Blind and Ander Herrera.

At the back, Rafael and Marcos Rojo were flying forward at every opportunity from their nominal starting positions as full-backs.

Both centre-backs from last weekend's defeat at the King Power Stadium - Jonny Evans and Tyler Blackett - are expected to miss Saturday's game, with the Northern Ireland international nursing a foot injury and Blackett suspended after his red card against the Foxes.

Up front, Wayne Rooney lined up behind central strikers Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao.

The playing style

Manchester United are clearly still looking for a settled playing style under new manager Van Gaal.

However, it appears that one thing is already set in stone - there will be goals and chances at both ends of the pitch when the Red Devils are in action.

With so many talented attackers and midfielders in their side, Manchester United are a team which prize possession of the football, playing a short, passing style inside the opposition half.

The Red Devils have thrown men forward with abandon in recent matches, with the full-backs in particular keen to support the attack. This, however, has left their centre-backs and defensive midfielders exposed and allowed opposition teams to create decent opportunities to score against them.

While their defensive solidity may not be so convincing, going forward Manchester United remain a real threat - hardly surprising when you list the likes of Di Maria, Van Persie, Rooney and Falcao in their side.

Individually, Di Maria has caught the eye since his arrival from Real Madrid by picking up the ball and running at pace at the defence, either creating an opportunity to shoot, exchange passes or to play in one of his team-mates.

Di Maria is just one of a host of players who will not be afraid to let fly from range, with the deep-lying Rooney a major threat to do just that.

The players

While his favoured formation remains something of a mystery, Van Gaal's selection of players also presents something of a guessing game.

David De Gea is the clear first-choice goalkeeper. The Spaniard may not appear physically imposing, but he is 6'4 tall and is both agile and brave. Like many continental goalkeepers, De Gea is also a quick and accurate distributor of the football.

The back four - or three - that Van Gaal utilises against West Ham is likely to be a very unfamiliar one.

Youngster Blackett, who has started all five league games so far, will miss the game through suspension. Meanwhile, England internationals Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are nursing hamstring and thigh injuries respectively, and Evans is out with the ankle problem he suffered at Leicester.

If news reports are to be believed, Argentine Marcos Rojo, who filled the left-back berth at Leicester, could partner one of Manchester United's younger defenders at centre-back. Either Tom Thorpe, 21, or Paddy McNair, 19, could start. Alternatively, Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher or Dutchman Daley Blind could drop into the back four.

Lively Brazilian Rafael is likely to start at right-back, while the left-back position could be filled by England youngster Luke Shaw. Should Shaw start, it would mark a debut for the former Southampton player, who is blessed with great pace and stamina.

In midfield, Blind and Spaniard Ander Herrera will provide the shield for the back four. Blind is a versatile performer who came through the Ajax Academy and has all the hallmarks of his upbringing - good technique, calm in possession and keeps the game moving.

Herrera is more attack-minded and will appear in the opposition penalty box. Both are mobile and get around the pitch well, as you would expect for players aged 24 and 25 respectively.

The front four for Manchester United need little introduction.

Di Maria is a top player. Predominantly left-sided, the Argentine is quick, technically superb and always on the move. With or without the ball, he is a constant threat.

Rooney gets on the ball regularly in his new attacking midfielder/No10 role behind the two strikers. As always, he will work hard for the team and help out defensively when the need arises - both from open play and set pieces.

Van Persie is well-known to Premier League audiences, but Colombian Falcao perhaps less so. Having arrived from Monaco with a huge reputation, Falcao is a quick, strong right-sided centre forward who finishes accurately from all positions, when he receives service from his colleagues.

The statistics

By Ben McAleer

Ahead of West Ham United's meeting with Manchester United, football stats website WhoScored.com has taken the chance to preview the encounter.

The Hammers enter the fixture high on confidence after a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Liverpool last weekend. West Ham's performance against the Reds won them plenty of plaudits and supporters will be hopeful they can repeat the display when they travel to Old Trafford on Saturday. United have ample attacking talent but have proven to be shaky at the back, particularly in the shock 5-3 reverse at Leicester on Sunday.

With Louis van Gaal short on defensive options heading into the encounter, West Ham will be confident that the high-pressing game adopted in the win over Liverpool will reap rewards once more. Strikers Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia both played essential roles in Saturday's victory and the duo between them have netted three of West Ham's nine league goals this season.

The pair were hugely influential at the weekend, pressuring the Liverpool defence and not allowing them time to settle, and against United, similar could occur if they repeat their performances from the Boleyn Ground victory.

One of United's statistically calculated WhoScored.com weaknesses is 'defending against long shots' and West Ham have developed a knack for netting from distance this season, Valencia's effort in the 2-2 draw with Hull a case in point. The Hammers could punish the 2012/13 Premier League champions if they are afforded space to shoot from distance, which could result in a second home league defeat of the season for United.

With a rejuvenated Stewart Downing operating behind Sakho and Valencia, West Ham have become a much more unpredictable side going forwards and the team are benefitting as a result. Only three teams - Chelsea, Everton and Arsenal - have scored more league goals than the Hammers (nine) so far this season and against a defence that conceded five last time out, Sam Allardyce will look to attack on Saturday.

Despite their short time together, Sakho, Valencia and Downing's blossoming partnership has contributed to West Ham's impressive start to the season. With Mauro Zarate in reserve, Allardyce has plenty of options in attack and if the starting trio are on song this weekend, the chance of West Ham coming away from Old Trafford with all three points increases considerably.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.