Five Talking Points - Man Utd

5 talking points

We look at the key discussion points ahead of Sunday's game at Manchester United...

A tough run of fixtures

A quick look at the fixture list for late November and early December tells you this is the toughest run of the season for the Hammers, with last week’s game at Tottenham being followed by league clashes against top-six sides Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

It would be easy to say that isn’t what Slaven Bilic’s team needs as they aim to climb up the Premier League table, but that would be to discount recent form against the league’s biggest teams.

Aside from the late defeat at White Hart Lane – which could well have been a victory – the Hammers have beaten Chelsea in the EFL Cup this season, while defeating Manchester United in the final Boleyn Ground game last term and remaining unbeaten against both Arsenal and Liverpoo in 2015/16l.

It is clear that this squad of players are more than capable of giving their illustrious opponents a game, so why not again this season?

Options up front

Slaven Bilic has waited a long time to be able to say he has options up front this season, but Andy Carroll’s return to fitness gives him that luxury.

A succession of injuries to his frontmen has meant he has had to play the versatile Michail Antonio up front at times this season, but Carroll’s return – and he could be involved today – will come as a boost.

Diafra Sakho had a comeback of his own at White Hart Lane last weekend, making his first appearance of the season after back problems, and with Andre Ayew back too, could this finally be the game when a striker scores for the Hammers?

5 talking points

An Old Trafford double header

A quirk of the fixture list means the Hammers will make two trips to Manchester to take on the Red Devils in the space of just four days.

Following Sunday’s Premier League tie, Slaven Bilic and his men must venture up the M6 once again on Wednesday for the right for a place in the EFL Cup quarter-finals.

Cup draws have brought the clubs together plenty In recent times, with the Hammers’ unforgettable 4-0 win over the Red Devils in the 2010/11 League Cup being followed by FA Cup meetings in 2012/13 and 2015/16 – both being won by the Manchester side following replays.

Drama nearly always follows these two – so expect plenty of action over the next few days.

Which Manchester United side will turn up?

It has been a mixed start to the season for Manchester United under new boss Jose Mourinho.  They currently sit sixth in the table, twelve points off leaders Chelsea, but have shown signs of returning to form in the last week.

They deserved more from their 1-1 draw with Arsenal last time out in the league, having taken the lead and dominated for large spells against the Gunners.

Then, needing a win to boost their UEFA Europa League chances in midweek, they comprehensively dispatched Feyenoord by a 4-0 scoreline.

Much has been made of Wayne Rooney’s form this season, but he got back on the scoresheet against the Dutch side, so West Ham would be well advised to be wary of the Red Devils skipper.

Defensive merry-go-round

One of the biggest blows felt by the Hammers last week was the late red card for Winston Reid – picked up for two bookings in injury time.

The Kiwi defender was magnificent as the east Londoners looked set to leave White Hart Lane with a famous victory and all three points.

But when referee Mike Dean showed the red card in his direction, that meant a one-game ban – just after he returned from a suspension for five bookings.

Bilic will therefore have to make changes to his backline again, and James Collins could come back into the fold, alongside Cheikhou Kouyate and Angelo Ogbonna, should the manager stick with the three at the back formation he has employed since a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace last month.

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