We`re now at that stage of the season whereby a defeat, in any competition, has consequences. In the space of five days this nations capital city, London, Manchester United face important clashes against London opposition in two competitions. In midweek we travel to Stamford Bridge, in West London, for a titanic Champions League quarter-final clash. But before that we travel to East London to take on West Ham United, this Saturday lunchtime, for a Premier League fixture. Anything other than a win could allow the chasing pack of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City to enhance their belief that we can still be caught.
With the situation being as it is at the top of the Premier League, with every point becoming vital, Sir Alex Ferguson is acutely aware of the importance of the fixture this Saturday and is quoted as having remarked,
“These are must-win games, in the sense that every time you get three points, it`s another step closer to the finish line.”
Let`s not recall the time Upton Park was the finishing line shall we, when we stuttered and a certain Blackburn Rovers snatched the title. So long ago but still so vivid in the memory banks!
West Ham Team News:
Avram Grant has seen his side flirting with relegation all season. But the recent return to fitness of their German international, Thomas Hitzlsperger, has coincided with a run of form that has seen the side put together some good results. Indeed, if you have any doubts that West Ham could be dangerous opposition just think back to that night, in the Carling Cup, when we were truly thumped.
The Hammers traded well in the January transfer window and Grant will, despite their recent healthy form, have to decide whether to reintroduce to the attack Robbie Keane. Our suspicions are that he will choose to leave Keane on the bench and go for any two out of Demba Ba, Carlton Cole and Frederic Piquionne.
Returning to that fateful Carling Cup night, you might be pleased to know that our chief tormentor that night, Jonathan Spector, is unlikely to start.
Player to watch: Scott Parker
The only player in the Upton Park squad I`d like to see in a Manchester United shirt!
Manchester United Team News:
According to our source, United still have a raft of players that are unavailable for the trip to Upton Park. These include Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Fletcher, Hargreaves, O`Shea and Rafael.
But there is some good news with Nemanja Vidic having recovered from his calf injury and being fit for consideration.
Out suspended though will be Jonny Evans who starts a three game suspension for his misdemeanour against Bolton Wanderers.
Player to watch: Nemanja Vidic
Our club captain is likely to return to the starting eleven after missing out through injury in recent fixtures. With West Ham having a powerful front three of Cole, Ba and Piquionne, United will need Vidic to show all his defensive qualities to keep the home strike force at bay.
Match Facts & Stats
United have the upper hand in recent Premier League clashes having won the last five. But, lurking in the not so distant past is that shocking 4-0 reverse to West Ham in the Carling Cup.
Doubt may also be creeping the outcome of the fixture with United having won only 4 of their last 15 Premier League games. Continuing on an away day theme we`ve also won on only 1 of our last 5 Premier League visits to the capital city.
The man in charge at Upton Park, hopefully not incurring the wrath of Sir Alex Ferguson who will be sat in the stand, is Lee Mason.
Our away form hasn`t been all it should have been this season. Although our home form remains remarkable, points` accumulation wise, on the road United have been hit-and-miss. Upton Park hasn`t always been a happy-hunting ground. With West Ham also showing some decent form at home in recent weeks and with memories of the 4-0 drubbing served out to us on our last visit, albeit in the Carling Cup, this has banana-skin written all over it. Therefore I`m hoping our ability to carve out the results needed, during title run-ins, will see us emerge victorious but it could be by a one goal margin!
As previously mentioned, it`s a Champions League quarter-final for us, next Wednesday, at Stamford Bridge.