Manchester United host West Ham on Sunday in Premier League action. Both teams are fresh off of wins in their respective Thursday night non-Champions League competitions, and therefore playing in the late Sunday window.
Here’s a look at the matchup and some potentially key factors at play for both teams.
The visitors and their half struggles (puns always intended!)
West Ham have won three of their last five in the Premier League, a needed recovery after winning just one of their first seven to start the season. They’re right in the middle of the table as things currently stand
Roshane Thomas, The Athletic’s West Ham correspondent, shared this a few days before their most recent league match against Bournemouth.
Scoring just twice and conceding seven times at the start of matches, and are underachieving as a team on their expected goals.
Part of this is down to the reconfiguration of West Ham’s attack. Striker Gianluca Scamacca has entered the fold, and has delivered mixed results since his arrival from Sassuolo. Or perhaps a better way to put it would be that he’s a bit of a weird fit for the way David Moyes’ West Ham like to play, and being asked to do a lot with limited service hasn’t always gone swimmingly.
The predominantly defensive set up in midfield limits the Hammers, but they’ve managed to find their goals again from difference sources. The return of Jarrod Bowen will likely boost their creativity as well. Still, West Ham are vulnerable, and their tendency to concede goals early could play to United’s favor.
Capitalizing early and United’s front three
Manchester United under Erik ten Hag aim to hit teams quickly, though it hasn’t always led to first half dominance. They’ve scored the decisive goal in the first half on four occasions across all competitions this season, but particularly in the last few games have only come alive in the second half. Wins against Omonia Nicosia, Tottenham, and FC Sheriff have shown this, and while their best chances against Chelsea came in the first half it was a late equalizer after conceding that got them a point from the match.
In fact, the aim to score early is still much more an aim than a reality. Manchester United have scored 11 goals in the second half of matches this season, opposed to just five goals in the first half. They’ve also conceded 11 goals in the first half this season, with the bulk of those coming against Brentford and Manchester City.
A team like West Ham struggling for good form could be a good team for United to play now, as they look to turn decent performances into a run of good form in the Premier League as the World Cup draws near. Despite the disparity in goals they have actually started playing better in the first half. They just need to finish.
Manchester United 2-1 West Ham
Knowing how things go when it comes to our backline, I expect us to concede a goal. Varane is out until after the World Cup for United, and Maguire is coming back from an injury of his own. Add to that his poor form over the past year and the mindless hatred he’s had to absorb from his club’s own fans, as well as a shift to right sided centre back, and there’s probably a miscommunication or two to account for in there.
However, United are creating chances at a decent rate, Marcus Rashford has looked good centrally with Jadon Sancho and Antony on either side, and Bruno Fernandes is back in form. There’s good reason to believe that even after conceding United can find a way back into the match, and I expect they’ll do that. Equalizer before halftime and a winner sometime late in the second half to get the Stretford End going.