Sandwiched between the Europa League matches vs Liverpool, the FA Cup clash against West Ham comes at a bad time for injury-hit Red Devils, who were completely outclassed at Anfield in midweek. Meanwhile, the Hammers continued the dream season by coming from two goals behind to beat Everton at Goodison Park, so it is easy to see which team go into the clash in better mood.
Manchester United had been pretty disappointing in the first part of the season, but they were able to show considerable improvement at the end of February, winning four matches in a row on all fronts. And with the youngsters Marcus Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Guillermo Varela impressing in the process, the fans and media alike began to think that maybe Louis van Gaal was the right manager for the club. However, the serious injury crisis and the hectic schedule would soon take its toll, with back to back defeats to West Ham and Liverpool getting the Red Devils back to square one. Manchester United were no match for rampant Reds in midweek’s Europa League tie and they have only David De Gea to thank for not conceding few more goals. It will be difficult for the Red Devils to show any sort of improvement after just three days, and West Ham are certainly not the team they want to be playing at the moment. With the Hammers playing their best football in years and winning four matches in a row, this could prove to be yet another disappointing afternoon at Old Trafford.
Juan Mata is suspended after he was sent off against West Bromwich, while Ander Herrera, Matteo Darmian and Michael Carrick could be recalled.
Bastian Schweinsteiger made a long-awaited return in the Europa League clash against Liverpool, but Rooney, Jones, Young, Shaw, Borthwick-Jackson and Keane are out injured.
While everybody expected Slaven Bilic to bring some sort of improvement to Boleyn Ground, nobody could predict such a successful season. The former Croatia coach proved his worth by masterminding a number of away wins over top sides early on, but what he really needs to be given credit for is keeping the Hammers so close to the Champions League positions. That was by no means an easy job considering all the injury problems, so it is fair to say Bilic got the very best out of the players at his disposal. Even though the Premier League top 4 chase obviously has the priority at the moment, don’t think for a second that the manager will field an under-strength side at Old Trafford, especially now that West Ham should be considered favourites to go through. The Hammers have already eliminated Liverpool from the FA Cup and they can be trusted to give their best against Manchester United as well. Buoyed by the amazing comeback against Everton, West Ham will be looking to further improve on their excellent away record.
Diafra Sakho made the long-awaited comeback against West Ham, whereas Enner Valencia, Victor Moses and Joey O’Brien could all be in contention for the Man Utd game.
Winston Reid is still some time away from being available for selection, whereas James Collins, Sam Byram and James Tomkins remain in the infirmary.
Key Factors to Consider
- Last two matches between the two sides ended all squared
- Both Man Utd and West Ham scored in four of last six meetings
- The goalless draw in December ended West Ham’s eight-match losing run at Old Trafford
- The Hammers have won six away games in current Premier League campaign
- Man Utd failed to score in last two fixtures
Hectic schedule and serious injury crisis are proving to be a major problem for Man Utd, who will now also be without Juan Mata. Meanwhile, the Hammers are well rested, high on confidence and playing their best football in years, so we are backing them to make it to the semis.
Verdict: West Ham to qualify
Best Odds: 13/8
Bookmaker: William Hill
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