Following a draw in the original tie at Upton Park, Man Utd are at home to West Ham looking for the victory that would secure their passage to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup (8.05pm GMT, Wednesday, live on ITV).
West Ham fought back from a goal down to lead 2-1 in the first match between the sides. The second debut of home favourite Joe Cole was embellished by two assists, both headed home by James Collins.
Just when it seemed the home side were about to pull off a shock and knock out the Premier League leaders, up stepped Robin Van Persie, a second half substitute, to provide an unerring stoppage time finish and salvage United a replay.
Van Persie got his name on the score sheet again at the weekend, scoring the first goal in United’s 2-1 home win over rivals Liverpool to take his total to 22 goals in all competitions since his £24 million summer move from Arsenal.
United were excellent in the first half on Sunday, dominating Liverpool and moving the ball with a degree of speed and precision that provided ample explanation for the large number of goals they have scored so far this season. The only surprise was that it was only 1-0 at the break.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men provided evidence of the scoring threat they pose from all over the pitch when Nemanja Vidic deflected Patrice Evra’s header into the back of the net for 2-0 in the 54th minute. In scoring, Vidic became United’s 16th different scorer this season. It was also the 11th goal scored by a United defender, 19.64% of the club’s total.
Liverpool responded quickly, pulling the deficit back to one just three minutes later and then had the better the final half hour, spurning some presentable chances to equalise in the face of defending that Ferguson himself described as “desperate.”
United did, though, hold on for the three points, thus maintaining their seven point advantage over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. They are undefeated in their last 11 matches in domestic competitions and will be hopeful of progressing further in the FA Cup, a competition that they have won a record number of times (11), but not since 2004.
Vidic and Ashley Young are both highly likely to miss Wednesday’s match after picking up knee injuries in the victory over Liverpool, while Johnny Evans, who missed that match due to a hamstring injury, could again miss out against West Ham. Wayne Rooney, too, continues to recover from his own knee injury and is doubtful.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce has a similar collection of injuries concerning him ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. Collins joined defensive colleagues George McCartney and Joey O’Brien on the sidelines after picking up a hamstring injury in West Ham’s 3-0 defeat away to Sunderland on Saturday. Mark Noble is also doubtful for Wednesday after missing that match with a calf injury.
The loss to Sunderland was West Ham’s sixth in their last nine Premier League matches and their fourth in their last five matches away from Upton Park. They have generally struggled on their travels this season, winning two, drawing two and losing six, scoring five and conceding 14.
It was a poor performance at both ends of the pitch from the Hammers, who rarely threatened the home goal and defended abysmally at times. Allardyce branded the display “pathetic” in the post-match interviews and will know that much better will be required if they are to avoid a hefty defeat on Wednesday.
West Ham are currently in a solid 11th in the table, but with just seven points separating them from the relegation places cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
The Hammers’ home form has been their great strength, with 18 (69.23%) of their 26 points obtained at Upton Park. Bottom club Queen’s Park Rangers are the next visitors to East London on Saturday – an encounter from which West Ham will be confident of obtaining three points.
Premier League survival is West Ham’s top priority this season, but they certainly showed in the first match against United that they have the desire to perform well in the FA Cup as well, something that bodes well for a decent contest in this match.
Man Utd v West Ham Betting Tips
West Ham will probably feel that the first match between the sides at Upton Park offered them the best hope of causing an upset and progressing to the next round.
The Hammers are a much less fearsome proposition away from home and with various defensive absentees will struggle to contain a United side who have scored 30 times in their 11 home league matches to date.
United only triumphed 1-0 when these sides met at Old Trafford in the league earlier this season, but we expect to see a more open encounter with a greater margin of victory.