Former Player Blog - Tony Cottee

The Hammers legend has urged West Ham United to rise to the occasion at Manchester United on Saturday
Tony Cottee scored 146 goals in 336 matches for West Ham United over two spells in the 1980s and 1990s. He was part of the Hammers side which won at Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round in March 1986…
There has been talk of challenging for a European place but, for me, the bigger picture is finishing in the top half of the Premier League table. At the start to the season that was the aim for everyone.

We made a sensational start with the away performances and wins at some of the top clubs, which raised expectations, but I still think that if we get the results to get a top nine or ten finish I will be absolutely delighted.

When you start the season like we did, some people got carried away about the fantastic position we found ourselves in, but the main priority is that we are still a Premier League club when we move into the new Stadium next summer.

We have probably done enough already to ensure we will not be involved in a relegation fight this season, but it’s important that we pick up points quickly in the next few weeks. When you play four games in a short period of time over Christmas and the New Year and don’t pick up points, and other clubs pick up six or eight in no time, you can find yourself dropping down the table.

We have got 22 points on the board already and it’s important we keep collecting them going forward.
A lot has been said and written about our injuries, but they are part of football and every club suffers them – and suspensions – throughout the course of the season.

Manchester City have been without David Silva and Sergio Aguero, Manchester United have lost Luke Shaw, Liverpool have only just got Daniel Sturridge back, while Arsenal are going to be without Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny…

Every club you can think of has had long-term injuries. It’s unfortunate for West Ham that they have lost key players in Dimitri Payet and Diafra Sakho, but we cannot dwell on their absences.

As a squad, the boys have got to get together and produce the goods, while Slaven Bilic and his coaching staff need to work out their tactics to get us results and performances without them on the pitch.

We have now got to stop moaning about it and the players to take action and get results on the pitch.
We go to Manchester United on Saturday and I see a team that are struggling to score goals.

Defensively, they are very strong and a lot of that has been down to the form of Chris Smalling, who has been outstanding, while David De Gea in goal behind him is back to his best.

Manchester United are not creating chances the way they did under Sir Alex Ferguson and they do not carry the same attacking threat that they have done down the years.

We have got to go there and stop conceding goals the way we have been in recent matches, because they don’t concede many and if we fall behind it will be difficult. They are hard to beat.

I would take a 0-0 draw now, and the longer it stays goalless the more chance we have got of creating a chance and nicking a win in the last 20 minutes through someone like Manuel Lanzini or Mauro Zarate, who have been excellent.

I think this is a big game for Andy Carroll, too. It is time for him to shine and the challenge is to get the tactics right to play to his strengths.

He is a big man, but he can play with his back to goal and is also good on the floor, so we don’t want to get suckered into just lumping long balls up to him.

As a striker myself, I know that Andy is only as good as the service he receives, so it is the responsibility of the team – not just Andy – to get the ball into good positions and deliver quality into the penalty area.

I can see us setting up with Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble shielding in front of the back four, then you have Manuel, Mauro and Victor Moses as a creative attacking trio behind Andy.

It’s a good chance for Slaven to look at his squad and for those players to step up.

We have won at Old Trafford many times before, so why can’t we do it again?
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United