Everything that you need to know ahead of Saturday’s match:
(1) Despite a domestic resurgence in recent weeks, Manchester United still find themselves looking up at West Ham in the standings. A lot of that is down to playing one fewer game than most of the others, but it’s hardly been a flying start to the season by the Reds. Win on Saturday, though, and the league table will make for much better reading.
(2) Manchester United’s four-match winning run came to a screeching halt on Tuesday night as Paris Saint-Germain upended Champions League Group H with a 3-1 win at Old Trafford. Les Parisiens started and finished the match with a flourish, though United held sway for long stretches in the middle. Sadly, they weren’t clinical enough in front of goal — I’m looking at you, Anthony Martial — and a few moments of magic from Neymar were enough to win it for the visitors.
(3) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Marcus Rashford’s injury:
It’s just niggling him, that shoulder injury. Let’s see how quickly he can recover. Let’s hope he can be ready for the West Ham game, but we don’t know.
(4) Other than Rashford’s achy shoulder, the injury news has been pretty encouraging of late. David De Gea shrugged off a knee complaint to start between the sticks against PSG, while Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Eric Bailly all made the bench after prolonged absences. Pogba replaced the injured Rashford in the second half and nearly knotted the score with a rocket shot that flew just over the bar.
(5) For the first time in months, Manchester United face an away day in front of a hostile crowd. Okay, there will only be 2,000 West Ham supporters — sprinkled throughout the west stand and the lower tier opposite the dugouts — at the London Stadium this weekend, but it’s an important step towards restoring some normalcy to this very odd Premier League season.
(6) Against all odds, David Moyes continues to prove everyone wrong at West Ham. He first joined the club in 2017/18 on a six-month contract with a simple remit: steer the struggling Hammers away from relegation. He did just that, but West Ham wasted no time in dumping him for a perceived upgrade in Manuel Pellegrini. Big mistake. Pellegrini’s international flair ran aground at the London Stadium, forcing the club to sheepishly beg Moyes back. Now, after a successful Project Restart and a hot start to this season, he’s probably in line for a big payday this summer.
Games lost this season:— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) December 1, 2020
David Moyes - 4
Zinedine Zidane - 5
(7) After losing their first two Premier League matches of the season, West Ham rattled off a nice string of results to rise all the way up to fifth in the table. And it hasn’t come by beating up on the dregs of the division, either. In fact, West Ham look at their best against the top clubs — including wins over Leicester City and Wolves, hard-fought draws with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, and a narrow defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. There’s a real Moyes-era Everton vibe around this team.
(8) West Ham typically set up in a 3-4-3, but they really need Michail Antonio to make it tick. The 30-year-old forward had been sidelined with a hamstring problem, thrusting the high-priced/low-impact Sebastien Haller into the lineup in his place. To be fair, Haller showed some encouraging signs of life over the past few weeks, even getting the nod at halftime on Monday after Antonio struggled in his return from injury. Still, Antonio’s physicality and nose for goal seem a better fit for West Ham’s direct style — not to mention the fruitful partnership that he’s struck up with Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen out wide.
(9) In defense, Moyes shifted Aaron Cresswell from the left side into a back three alongside Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena. That opened up the left wing-back spot for Arthur Masuaku, who brings more attacking verve to the role. Cresswell, likewise, can push forward on occasion, knowing that the more defensively-minded Ogbonna and Balbuena will stay at home. Plus, the switch to a back three opens up more opportunities for midfielders Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek to join the attack.
(10) On Monday night, West Ham made it three in a row with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa. The Hammers scored at the beginning of each half and (barely) contained a rampant Jack Grealish to snag all three points. Interestingly, the coaching staff swapped Said Benrahma for the off-the-pace Masuaku at halftime, putting an attack-first player in a nominal defensive position. Benrahma paid quick dividends with a deft chip onto the head of Bowen for the winning goal. It’s all going West Ham’s way these days.
(11) A quick West Ham scouting report from José Mourinho:
I told [my players] to be aware of set-pieces against, which we knew they were very strong. David [Moyes] found in Soucek his new Fellaini.