Manchester United were blown away by West Ham United at the London Stadium last year. This time, a far better performance is required.
After back-to-back 1-0 home wins against Leicester City and Astana, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping to build on the momentum and confidence with a dominant display against West Ham.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side sit on eight points, the same as United, and are unbeaten in their last four games after an opening day pasting from the Chilean’s former club Manchester City.
United haven’t won away from Old Trafford in eight games since the memorable victory at Paris Saint Germain in early March, losing five of them. A win away at West Ham would help erase the demons and pain of last year’s horror show.
Where did it go wrong last year?
The easy answer would be where did it go right?
The Red Devils’ display under Jose Mourinho 12 months ago lacked urgency and any real desire or will to battle against the Hammers, Mourinho’s men simply folded and had the look of a team that had issues both on and off the pitch.
A 3-1 defeat flattered United and it meant that under the stewardship of the Portuguese coach, United had made there worst league start in 29 years.
Clearly irked by a lack of transfer backing from the board in the summer, Mourinho made a point with his team selection by deploying midfielder Scott McTominay in a three man defence, despite having Eric Bailly on the bench, alongside Victor Lindelöf and Chris Smalling.
United were 1-0 down after five minutes after Felipe Anderson’s clever back-heeled finish. The hosts doubled their advantage on the brink of half-as Andriy Yarmolenko’s shot deflected in off Lindelof and beyond the wrong-footed David de Gea.
Lindelöf was hauled off by Mourinho just before the hour mark as his three-man defence experiment failed and he introduced Marcus Rashford as United chased a route back into the match, meanwhile ridiculously, Luke Shaw was being run ragged by the veteran Pablo Zabaleta.
Mourinho started with his trusted general Marouane Fellaini over Ander Herrera and Fred, Paul Pogba’s frosty relationship with Mourinho continued to show cracks as the Frenchman was taken off with 20 minutes to go.
Marcus Rashford seemed to have set up a frantic finish with 20 minutes left, but United switched off and were punished.
West Ham captain, Mark Noble was able to dictate the temp of the match without a glove being laid on him. The gaping hole between Smalling and McTominay was far too inviting for Noble, who threaded a through ball to Arnautovic, who calmly slotted past De Gea to kill the game off.
Surely United cannot be as defensively naïve as they were 12 months ago, not with with Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka at the heart of their defence.
Maguire will lead United’s new look backline and if Solskjaer’s side do come under the cosh, they finally have a leader at the back that will take charge of the situation.
McTominay will not be playing centre back, he will be at the heart of United’s midfield and will probably come up against Noble and Declan Rice. The young Scot will be eager to build on his impressive display against Leicester and make sure that United come out on top in the crucial midfield battle.
Solskjaer won’t be able to call upon the same physicality that Mourinho had in the Belgian pair, Lukaku and Fellaini, but he does have the electric Dan James and the threat of Mason Greenwood and Rashford.
This could be another game where the Norwegian opts to go with the energetic Andreas Pereira on the right-wing.
United cannot afford a repeat of the shambolic performance they produced in September last year against Pellegrini’s side, United have-to-have the right attitude and intensity from the first whistle.
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