Two consecutive narrow wins represent a good run of results for an injury-plagued Manchester United side, but with many of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s biggest assets expected to return for Sunday’s match at the London Stadium, a more dominant United side is not outside the realms of possibility.
West Ham, however, represent a tough outfit, enough so that dominating them at their intimidating home ground would be a statement of intent for a United side looking to finish inside the Top 4 of the Premier League this season.
With that in mind, and pending the fitness of certain players, expect Solskjaer to select a lineup resembling the following on Sunday afternoon.
David de Gea
Sergio Romero played his part more than adequately against Astana, but de Gea is the first-choice goalkeeper for the Premier League, and deservedly so. He also just signed a new deal that raises the likelihood of the Spaniard spending his best years at Old Trafford.
Wan-Bissaka has, for the most part, silenced his critics with his early displays in United red, impressing viewers with his commanding defensive displays and ridiculous tackling ability. Having him in the back four is needed given West Ham’s incredibly talented crop of attacking midfielders.
Much like Romero, Axel Tuanzebe’s solid performance virtually guarantees inclusion in the United lineup to play Rochdale later next week, but the United academy graduate will have to wait his turn as Victor Lindelof is most likely going to return to the side. Lindelof, like de Gea, put pen to paper this week and will be looking to prove to Solskjaer and United that the right decision was made.
United’s marquee summer signing was missed in the side as Phil Jones struggled to cope with Astana’s aerial game in the midweek. Maguire’s composure and command are huge assets to the United backline, which has only conceded 4 goals in their first 5 matches this season.
Having confirmed that Luke Shaw is the first of a list of many absentees for Sunday’s match, Solskjaer is most likely to start young in his place on Sunday. While both Marcos Rojo and Diogo Dalot staked decent claims for a place in the side on Thursday, it seems only logical that Young, who has performed solidly over recent weeks, will return to the side.
The fact that McTominay has started every Premier League match for United this season is a testament to both his ability and performance level, both metrics which continue to rise almost every time the 22-year-old steps out onto the pitch. Involving himself in both the attack and defence for United, one can only hope he continues to play an influential role on the campaign.
Dominating the midfield with consummate ease on Thursday, Fred missed an opportunity to get out of first gear and really make an impression in the Europa League, but nonetheless, he had an important cameo as he aims to settle in more at United. Expect him to pair McTominay in midfield ahead of Nemanja Matic for Sunday’s fixture.
It is difficult to pick a solid set of players to start in attacking midfield given the absences of Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, the three strongest ones in the squad. However, in the absences of a few of these players recently, Andreas Pereira has stepped in, and it seems likely that he will do the same against West Ham.
One might find it strange to pick 19-year-old Angel Gomes over Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, but truthfully, he earned it with a neat and promising display in the Europa League. From recent performances, it seems unlikely that either Lingard or Mata would have a significant impact, and while Gomes may struggle at this level, he may also prove to be worth the risk and ensure three points in a difficult fixture for United.
While his performance against Astana was slightly wasteful and Greenwood ultimately outplayed him, Rashford adds an x-factor and a level of quality in these types of fixtures that the rest of United’s frontline (Martial aside) haven’t proven themselves to have quite yet. Expect the England international to work to get his shooting boots back on after failing to score from open play since the season opener.
The fitness situations of certain forwards make picking a front four very difficult, but the likelihood of everyone returning is very low and Greenwood’s goal on Thursday ensures he should be given the opportunity to lead the line in this match.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young; McTominay, Fred; Pereira, Gomes, Rashford; Greenwood