Looking to Saturday at Old Trafford

I was going to write a post about what I saw in the match against Leicester City but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I couldn’t get over the images of Leicester City players’ celebrations as the seconds ticked by and yet another Manchester United loss was in the books.  Instead I choose to look forward, even if looking forward is just as scary as looking back.

It is clear that United have a tough road ahead of them.  The match against West Ham United on Saturday will not be easy.  The Hammers are 2-1-2 so far this season, good enough for 9th in the table with 7 points.  More importantly they are coming off a motivational 3-1 win over Liverpool last weekend.  Now Liverpool are in the same boat as Manchester United, getting off to a poor start despite the talent they have on the pitch (As a United fan it’s tough to give Liverpool credit for anything, but I’m trying to be objective here).  Because West Ham have proven that they can beat a big club and the fear factor of facing Manchester United has once again disappeared, manager Sam Allardyce and his men are not going to come into the match simply hoping for a draw and scrapping a point against Louis van Gaal and co.  They are coming to Manchester looking to return home with three points in the bag and continue United’s poor season.

I’m going to sound like a broken record, but once again the Red Devils are hampered by injuries and once again their defense is going to suffer.  Johnny Evans went down midway through the first half against Leicester City and that forced a recovering Chris Smalling to replace him.  Smalling himself picked up another injury in training and it is uncertain if he will be able to regain his fitness in time to play on Saturday.  Tyler Blackett picked up a red card last match and will be unavailable to play while he serves his suspension.  So that leaves Marcos Rojo, Rafael and new comer Luke Shaw to go up against a West Ham attack and midfield that are relentless in their persistence and pressure.  Shaw himself is coming off a bit of an injury and overall lack of fitness so it’ll be interesting to watch how he performs in his Manchester United debut.  If I had to venture a guess I would expect to see Shaw, Rojo, Smalling (if he can go), and Rafael.  One thing is clear, the defense must communicate better and mark their men if United have a hope at winning this match.  It’s not like they are going up against a Diego Costa or a Sergio Agüero, players that can score at will and decimate a defense.  However, if you watched West Ham’s match against Liverpool you could see that Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho can score and should be players but on United’s list to watch out for.

The next few weeks do not look easy for United.  After the match on Saturday they play Everton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal within a 6 week span.  Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal currently sit 1, 6 and 4 respectively, with Everton tied with Manchester United at 5 points and identical records.  If there is a positive to take away from this it’s that half of those matches will be played at Old Trafford and Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal are in the Champions League.  So you never know if someone will pick up an injury or have fitness issues going into these matches.  Hopefully we can pick up three points in this weeks’ match and build up a little bit of momentum going into these future matches.