- Rooney out with “nasty” ankle injury
- Payet, Sakho, Valencia all out for West Ham
- Man United unbeaten in 13 (all comps.) vs. WHU (8 straight home wins)
- 3rd (28 points) vs. 8th (22 points) in the Premier League
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Old Trafford, the building otherwise known as “The Theater of Dreams,” has been nothing short of West Ham United’s personal theater of nightmares for much of the last decade. The Hammers, now under the leadership of Slaven Bilic, haven’t won away to Manchester United since May 13, 2007, having suffered defeats in each of their last seven visits.
You can watch Saturday’s match live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra.
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West Ham, who will be without ace midfielder Dimitri Payet (ankle) a while longer, also lost striker Diafra Sakho (thigh) for two months this week and are still without striker Enner Valencia (ankle), who has been out since early November. Manuel Lanzini, who has scored in two of West Ham’s last three games, will serve as the creative hub against the PL’s stingiest defense (10 goals allowed through 14 games). West Ham are winless in their last four league games, losing twice (Watford and Tottenham Hotspur) and drawing twice (Everton and West Bromwich Albion) during that period.
Man United’s injury list extends well beyond Rooney — Marcos Rojo (shoulder) and Phil Jones (knee) are expected to miss Saturday’s game along the backline, while Ander Herrera is a doubt in midfield. With Anthony Martial having failed to score a single goal in his last 686 minutes played, one facet to keep an eye on is whether or not Louis Van Gaal will start Marouane Fellaini at center forward with a mind toward long-ball tactics from the game’s opening whistle. Man United are unbeaten in the last six league games, winning three (Everton, West Brom and Watford) and drawing three (Manchester City, Crystal Palace and Leicester City) during that period.
What they’re saying
Van Gaal on Man United’s need to buy in January: “The problem is that our injuries are always contact injuries and you cannot afford that because football is a sport of direct resistance. Shaw is direct injured, Rojo and Wayne also. We have a lot of long-lasting contact injuries, which is our problem. We are looking, but as you know it is not so easy to buy players and in January it is more difficult. We are looking but it is not for sure.”
Midfielder Mark Noble, on West Ham’s last win at Old Trafford: “It’s well-documented that I have said that’s one of the best feelings I’ve had as a football player, especially when the final whistle went. We had a similar team then to the one we’ve got now with a little bit of pace and power and a bit of flair, and we had a hero in Carlos that day. I saw a little comment or two from Manu (Lanzini) and Mauro (Zarate), our two Argentinian boys, who know Carlos well and the fans love, and hopefully they can create something special for us on Saturday.”
With their attacking ranks decimated by injuries at the moments, it’s nigh impossible to envision West Ham scoring against a side so defensively organized and disciplined as Man United. Then again, it’s tough to imagine the Red Devils scoring these days as well. They’ll have so much of the ball, though, that eventually the golden chance will present itself. Man United 1-0 West Ham.