Here is where the game is likely to be won and lost...
James Tomkins v Javier Hernandez
Chicharito is notoriously one of the most difficult players to keep tabs on in the Manchester United attack. His pace and movement means that ever present West Ham defender James Tomkins will have to be at his best to stop the Mexican from having any effect on the game. Hernandez bagged two goals in the win over Wigan which should guarantee him a start.
Joey O’Brien v Antonio Valencia
Antonio Valencia was on the subs bench for the match against Wigan which means he will be fresh if he starts. Valencia is one of the best wingers currently in the English game and Joey O’Brien is a player the away side will focus on. Manchester United always get good support into the box so if Valencia can frequently get down to the by line, he’ll be perfectly positioned to rain crosses across the West Ham penalty area.
Mark Noble v Michael Carrick
Michael Carrick will be under pressure straight away because Mark Noble personifies the West Ham ideal of getting in the face of the opposition. Noble hurries about the pitch, pressing and looking to put a challenge in. Carrick has to be at the top of his game in terms of his control and passing because he won’t get long enough on the ball to think out and play complicated passes.
Matt Taylor v Rafael
Matt Taylor does like to come into the middle and get involved in the creative side of West Ham’s play but he’s also very dangerous when he stays out on the left. Rafael has had some extremely good games for Manchester United and some poor ones to add to the mix. If he can stop Taylor from cutting inside and isolate him in areas when he’s less effective then the away team won’t have to deal with balls flying into the box which is an area they have struggled with.
Carlton Cole v Nemanja Vidic
Vidic is likely to get the nod to start in the Manchester United defence because this is the sort of game where they will need a real leader. Cole should be fired up by his recent performances and by the home crowd who are likely to be up for this match. Vidic needs to use all of his experience and cleverness to stop Cole from bullying the United defence.
image: © Tom Cuppens