Manchester United will look to move one step closer towards the English Premier League title this weekend when they take on West Ham at Upton Park.
The Red Devils got back on track last week against Stoke City after a shock loss at home to Manchester City, and will be looking to wrap up the league title as soon as possible—meaning they'll be wanting the three points on offer in this one.
West Ham, on the other hand, will be looking to solidify themselves as a Premier League team next season, with the Londoners only seven spots above the relegation zone despite being in 12th position.
They have tested United several times throughout the year and will take confidence into this one knowing that they can challenge them again here.
Can they emerge triumphant in this one, or will Sir Alex Ferguson's men be too strong on the road? Read on for a full preview including all the key details, live viewing information and analysis.
Date: Wednesday April 17, 2013
Start time: 2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Upton Park, London
Live Stream and TV Information
According to Live Soccer TV, ESPN Deportes, SiriusXM FC and ESPN2 will all provide coverage of the game throughout the United States. Sky Go, Sky Sports 2/HD will do the same in the U.K.
A live stream can be found through ESPN3 (United States).
Previous Encounters in 2012-13 Season
West Ham have played Manchester United three times this season but have not tasted victory in any of their meetings—losing twice and drawing one of them.
They first played in the Premier League back in November, where Robin van Persie scored in the opening minute of play. However, that would be the only goal of the game as United hung on for a nervy 1-0 victory in front of the Old Trafford crowd.
The two teams then played in the FA Cup, at Upton Park, where West Ham seemed destined to record a 2-1 victory over United. However, courtesy of a brilliant long ball and finish, Van Persie was again able to find the back of the net—tying the game at 2-2 and forcing a replay.
Again, United would score early against West Ham (Rooney in the ninth minute), and again, they would not score again as they defended for their lives in the tournament.
Manchester United come into this game with a very strong domestic season behind them, but with two losses in the past two weeks to Chelsea and Manchester City.
They were strong on the road to Stoke, and appeared to have put their struggles behind them—something that West Ham will be looking to bring up once more, as they've managed to do in the three times that they've played the Red Devils this year.
West Ham have lost just once in their last five games (2-0, Chelsea, away) and have suffered just three defeats in their last 11 matches at Upton Park. Manchester City, Chelsea and Swansea City have all dropped points there, and with the Hammers scoring in their past nine home matches, they appear likely to continue their run of good form in this one.
Key Players to Watch
West Ham: Kevin Nolan
Captain Kevin Nolan has been simply superb for the Hammers in the middle of the pitch this season and will need another big performance against United here.
The 30-year-old has six goals and two assists on the season but is also getting through a lot of work defensively—averaging 2.3 tackles and interceptions as well as 1.5 clearances per game.
Nolan has a habit of popping up at the right time for the Hammers, and with United showing this season that they can be susceptible to quick raids, he could well find himself with a chance or two throughout this one. Whether he can take them or not still remains to be seen, given United's recent solidity at the back, but he'll definitely have chances here.
Expect Nolan to be a dangerous threat for the home side all afternoon.
Manchester United: Robin van Persie
He's been Manchester United's savior time and time again this season—least of which being against West Ham in the Cup—and is back in the goalscoring column after netting against Stoke last week.
Granted it was from the penalty spot, but having scored just one goal in his past 12 games for United before that, he'll gladly take the goal and add to his total for the season—now sitting at a very commendable 20 goals to go with his eight assists.
Van Persie has been the biggest threat for United all year and should find good room to operate against West Ham as he has done all season.
He has developed a great relationship with Rooney in the middle, and if that pair get going in this one, the Red Devils will seemingly be very tough to stop. If West Ham can get the better of the Dutchman then they'll be in a good position to win this one, but if not, then they could well see the goals chalked up against them—he's just that good a finisher.
Biggest Storyline to Follow: What Did United Learn vs. Stoke City?
Having struggled against West Ham throughout the year, and now playing away from home as well, Manchester United are certainly no lock to win this one.
However, the win against Stoke on the weekend was perhaps a very good test for the Red Devils, with the Potters a great "warm-up," if you like. For not only do they have a very intimidating home ground in the Britannia Stadium, they also play a lot of long balls and quick attacking raids—which West Ham will look to do against United through Andy Carroll.
West Ham will be a big threat in the air both from long balls and set pieces, and United's defense must be on their game to deal with those threats.
Like they did against Stoke City, they must deal with the ball quickly coming out of defense and allow their midfield to run the show. If they can do that, they should find plenty of time and space to work attacking chances against the Hammers—just like against Tony Pulis' side.
United should be well-equipped to deal with the threats that West Ham present here, and if they play like they did last week, the Red Devils should win because of it.
Three Stats to Consider
1. West Ham have scored in just one of their last seven Premier League games against Manchester United, with those goals coming from the penalty spot.
50. Manchester United have hit the target with 50 percent of their shots this season—the highest out of any teams in the Premier League.
4. There have been four penalties in the last three Premier League games between these teams, though United are yet to concede a penalty this season.
West Ham have been strong at home and very strong against United this year, but it is hard to go past the away side from winning another one here.
Even in the games that they have challenged the Red Devils, West Ham have not had the same attacking direction and strengths that their opponents have, and with United facing a great test last week in Stoke City, they'll be more than prepared for whatever the Hammers throw at them.
United are looking to wrap up the league title and know that three points here would bring that one step closer to reality. I wouldn't say that we'll see a goal in the first 10 minutes like has so often been the case between these two teams, but look for United to grab a first-half goal—doubling that just after half-time to record a comfortable victory on the night.
West Ham 0, Manchester United 2
Hit me up on Twitter for more sports goodness: Follow @dantalintyre
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!