Whilst it would be inaccurate to say there is no pressure ahead of tonight’s game, we certainly did ourselves a favour by picking up three points at Stoke after the disappointment of derby day. If last season hadn’t happened, I’m sure there wouldn’t have been any nerves ahead of our trip to the Britannia, but after blowing an eight point lead this time last year we’re not quite as cocky as we used to be when it comes to believing that United will see the season out. Whilst the players claim there has been no hangover since Real Madrid, it’s hard to ignore the disappointing results that have come since then, even when looking at the games we’ve won. You’d expect United to do better than scrape 1-0 wins over relegation fodder like Reading and Sunderland!
Still, Sunday’s result put a stop to any genuine hope City fans might have had following the derby with us increasing our lead to 15 points at the top. We’re in touching distance now and really should be going all out for the win tonight.
West Ham’s home form is decent enough, with them losing just 4 of the 15 games they’ve played there, but it’s nothing to write home about either. Unfortunately, United is their cup final and they would take great pleasure in throwing a spanner in the works when it comes to our 20th title. Thankfully, United have the best away record in the league, winning 12 of our 16 games, and picking up at least 9 more points than any other team has done on the road.
Seeing Wayne Rooney starting in midfield ahead of him must have Tom Cleverley panicking. We’re down to the bare bones in midfield, with Anderson not even making the squad these days, but after Rooney’s man of the match display, Cleverley has got to buck up his ideas if he wants to hold down a place in his preferred position in our starting XI. Michael Carrick, who joined West Ham when he was 16-years-old, will almost certainly partner whoever Fergie chooses.
Robin van Persie looked fairly chuffed to score at the weekend and you imagine he will be thrown straight back in to add to his goals tally. Having started three fewer games, Robin is now two goals behind Luis Suarez in the race for the Golden Boot. Javier Hernandez didn’t have his best game against Stoke, a side he regularly scores against, but may be given another opportunity tonight if Rooney is preferred in midfield.
Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are all available tonight, meaning Rio Ferdiand will likely be given a breather and Evans will be welcomed back in to the starting XI.
The biggest issue, as has regularly been the case this season, is what to do with the wide positions. Nani has enjoyed the best form out of the three wingers, but he’s still been hit and miss, with lack of playing time and injuries not doing him any favours. Ryan Giggs, who had a poor game in the centre of midfield against City, might be a useful option on one of the wings tonight.
A draw wouldn’t be the worst result tonight but we really should be looking to get this title wrapped up. Let’s not forget that if we win our next two and City drop any points in their next three, Van Persie gets a guard of honour from his former teammates at the Emirates. Whilst of course winning the league any way, at any time, is the priority here, you can’t help but enjoy the prospect of Van Persie shutting up any Arsenal fans who called him a mercenary when he left them.
Come on United!
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