Having succumbed to a late Fulham equaliser by Brede Hangeland last weekend, Manchester United welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford aiming to return to winning ways after throwing away “silly points”, according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson, at Craven Cottage.
A Paul Scholes strike and a Hangeland own goal looked to have netted the Red Devils all three points last weekend. However, a late penalty miss by Nani followed by an 89th minute Fulham goal meant United had to settle for a draw on a ground where they have struggled in recent seasons.
Yet despite the late disappointment in the capital which Nemanja Vidic has admitted was “hard to take”, the Red Devils will look forward to Saturday’s game with confidence having won their last five games on the trot against the Hammers.
Last season Ferguson’s men did the double over the East Londoners winning 4-0 at Upton Park in December and also taking all the spoils at Old Trafford with a 3-0 win in February. The Scot will undoubtedly demand something similar from his team before the Premier League pauses for an international break.
Under no illusions
West Ham, meanwhile, having lost their first two games to Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers, now face the daunting prospect of Manchester United followed by Chelsea and the very real prospect of being pointless after four games.
Indeed talisman Scott Parker has this week admitted he is “dreading” the trip to Manchester and has warned fans the club faces a “difficult season” ahead.
Yet fans were rewarded with some cheer in the League Cup in midweek when a late goal from Parker allowed the Irons see off the challenge of League Two Oxford United and breathe a big sigh of relief at avoiding an early cup upset.
While that may only provide scant consolation manager Avram Grant must be hoping that victory can kickstart his side’s season and, having not won at Old Trafford since a Carlos Tevez inspired win in 2007, any kind of result at Old Trafford would be warmly welcomed.
Wayne Rooney is expected to return to the side whilst Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park and Nani may battle it out for a place in midfield. Anderson, Hargreaves and Rio Ferdinand remain on the injured list.
Possible starting XI: Van der Sar; O’Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs; Berbatov, Rooney.
West Ham United
Thomas Hitzlsperger is ruled out with a thigh problem but Matthew Upson should be fit after recovering from a kick in the face last weekend. Tal Ben Haim, Benni McCarthy and Manuel da Costa are also in contention to start.
Possible starting XI: Green, Reid, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga; Faubert, Parker, Noble, Boa Morte; Piquionne, Cole.