West Ham could strike a body blow to a Manchester United side already in difficulties when they host them at the London Stadium in the English soccer Premier League (7.30am ET Saturday).
Man Utd have made an unconvincing start to the new campaign. A narrow win at home to Leicester City was followed by defeats against Brighton and Tottenham Hotspur, wins over Burnley and Watford and then a draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend.
Jose Mourinho’s side actually took the lead in the last-mentioned encounter, with Fred firing low into the corner from Paul Pogba’s neat pass inside the opening 20 minutes, but Wolves were always in the game and produced an equaliser early into the second half. The closest United came to a second was Fred’s superbly saved free-kick late in the first half.
The aftermath was dominated by rumors of a further breakdown in the relationship between Mourinho and Pogba. Mourinho was said to be annoyed by the manner in which Pogba lost the ball in the build up to the Wolves goal. Pogba appeared to question Mourinho’s tactics in a post-match interview, suggesting United should “attack, attack, attack,” especially on home soil. He has since been stripped of the vice-captaincy of the side.
Mourinho has normally won a league title by the time he begins his third season in charge of a club, but he doesn’t have such an achievement to back up his work at Old Trafford. Man Utd finished second in the Premier League last season, although their underlying statistics were far from impressive, and results this time appear more in line with what the numbers suggested (and continue to suggest) was their genuine level.
Liverpool and reigning champions Manchester City have both begun the season so impressively that results will have to improve very quickly if United are to have any chance of genuinely challenging for the title. They are unlikely to do so unless performances also improve, which will require Mourinho to strike a much better balance between attack and defence.
West Ham have also begun the season in a manner that will make it difficult for them to achieve their pre-season objectives. The optimism produced by strong summer investment and the arrival of former, title-winning Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini is yet to crystallise into a side capable of making the jump from the bottom half into the top eight.
Pellegrini always knew that he wouldn’t have the advantage of a soft early schedule to get settled in. The fixture list provided him with matches against five of last season’s top six in West Ham’s opening nine matches of the campaign. After defeats away at Arsenal and Liverpool and more damagingly, at home to Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers, victory away at Everton and a draw with Chelsea have somewhat stabilized things.
The last-mentioned result could have been even better had Andriy Yarmolenko not headed wide an excellent chance during the final quarter-hour. An industrious performance, in which they successfully subdued Eden Hazard and in which young Declan Rice again stood out at the base of midfield, provided reasons to believe that things are improving.
There is still plenty of work for Pellegrini and his staff to do, not least in shoring up a defensive unit that had conceded 11 times in five matches prior to their first clean sheet of the season last time out. West Ham have enough attacking talent to cause most teams a few problems if a better structure can be created behind them, something that the displays against Everton and Chelsea suggest time could well provide.
With at least one of Marco Arnautovic and former Man Utd striker Javier Hernandez likely to return from injury for Saturday’s match, Pellegrini will be able to count on the natural finisher his side perhaps missed against Chelsea. That should give West Ham the opportunity to compete with a faltering United side. If they can’t grab the three points, a draw should be within their capabilities.
Our Betting Preview’s West Ham vs. Man Utd Picks & Predictions Verdict
The best USA-friendly bookies make Man Utd around -115 favorites on the road to win this game, with the draw at +270 and West Ham +350 at home. But, for our West Ham vs Man Utd prediction, the wager this preview likes most is:
- Bet on West Ham to win on the ‘draw no bet’ market @ +210 with Bovada.