Slaven Bilic has defended Manchester United from accusations they play “boring” football as he prepares to take his West Ham side to Old Trafford on Saturday.
Louis van Gaal’s tactics have come under increasing scrutiny following back-to-back draws with PSV and Leicester City, and a run of results that includes four 0-0 draws in their last eight games in all competitions.
Rumours have emerged this week that United are already considering replacements for Van Gaal, with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri named in one report as the prime target to restore some swagger to the team’s style.
Bilic, however, has praised the 20-time champions for their results so far this season, with United boasting the best defensive record in the Premier League and having gone unbeaten in the league since the 3-0 loss to Arsenal in early October.
“They are different than, let’s say, the [Alex] Ferguson era, when especially at home they were electric, playing more vertically,” he said. “But you say narrow victories, but they are victories.
“They’re not conceding goals and somebody said they are boring, but they are not a team that is giving you the ball and defending.
“Especially at home, when the opponents are defending with numbers and are compact, you can’t play very vertically. You need gaps and space behind or in between the lines of the opponent. That’s hard to find.
“We can call it controlled football, we can call it patient football, but it is so far very effective because they are sitting good in the table.”
United, who are a point behind leaders Manchester City heading into this weekend’s matches, have a number of fitness concerns, with captain Wayne Rooney (foot), Phil Jones (foot), Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard (both hamstring) all potential doubts.
Antonio Valencia (foot) and Luke Shaw (leg) remain sidelined and United have yet to address speculation that Marcos Rojo has sustained a shoulder problem in training this week.
Marouane Fellaini could be restored to the matchday squad after playing the full 90 minutes for the Under-21s in a 3-2 win over Liverpool on Monday, in which he scored.
West Ham could achieve the remarkable feat of becoming the first team in Premier League history to win away at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United in the same season with a victory – but a spate of injuries to attacking players leaves them with an uphill task.
Diafra Sakho (thigh) is out, along with Enner Valencia (foot) and Dimitri Payet (ankle), who has supplied five goals and three assists in 12 league matches this season.
Bilic is able to welcome back club captain Mark Noble, however, after he was banned for the 1-1 draw with West Brom last time out.
Key Opta stats:
– Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 13 Premier League meetings with West Ham, winning 11 and drawing two.
– West Ham have lost seven successive Premier League games at Old Trafford and have won only twice there in the Premier League era (W2 D0 L17).
– On their 19 Premier League visits to Old Trafford, West Ham have netted just 10 goals in total and have never scored more than one in a game.
– Both meetings between these two sides last season saw a man sent off – Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford in December and Luke Shaw at the Boleyn Ground in February.
– Wayne Rooney has scored three goals in his last three Premier League outings versus West Ham.
– The Red Devils have lost just two Premier League home games in 2015, a joint-league-low figure along with Arsenal and Tottenham.