Lee Dixon will be on ITV duty at Upton Park this Saturday tea-time and he's expecting West Ham and Manchester United to serve up a fantastic contest...
Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce are big pals but they are men of differing football tastes. Whereas Sam is known, unfairly some times, for his preference for direct, long ball play, Sir Alex's achievements as manager of some of the most stylish sides in English football history are staggering. Looking ahead to this match, I'm reminded that his first achievement as United boss was winning the 1990 FA Cup.
Fergie has a stellar record in this competition, steering the Reds to victory an astounding five times. Equally surprising, however, is the fact that the last of those came in 2004, which means it's nine years since United got their hands on it. Sir Alex Ferguson turned 71 on New Year's Eve, I wouldn't like to predict how long he will remain as United boss because his appetite for winning is unquenchable. I'd certainly think, however, that he'd like to claim a sixth FA Cup.
West Ham are having a reasonable season, sitting 11th in the Premier League. They have a decent home-scoring record, with 19 (more than third-placed Tottenham have managed at their ground) so perhaps Allardyce deserves some credit for forging an attacking team. United's goalscoring exploits require no introduction so overs is certainly the way to go.
Robin van Persie is arguably enjoying an even better season than he did last year. He's United's goal machine par excellence - not a sentence I hoped I'd ever have to utter - and, if United are on song, then no defence in Europe could contain them at present. Are United over-reliant on Van Persie? Not when Javier Hernandez can chip in with a brace and Wayne Rooney is happy to play in a deeper role. However, the Dutchman has played more games than any other United player this season so Sir Alex appreciates his value.
United scored ten in their last three matches and 26 away goals in 11 league games this term. The advice is simple: if the Reds are in town expect goals. It's worth noting that the Hammers did a decent job of containing the Reds when they went up to Old Trafford. United were in second gear for that 1-0 victory and I think we could get five or six at Upton Park.
Not that I expect them all at the one end - both teams to score is a must for bettors - and I think West Ham will pepper their box with high balls and get the big men forward, especially for set-pieces. Mark Noble will need to be industrious in midfield, Carlton Cole must be more clinical and the team need to aim for the kind of brave, battling performance they mustered for the 3-1 win over Chelsea last month.
I expect that United will edge it, they may even win by more than one, but West Ham will play a big part in an entertaining match.
The Tactical View: Michael Cox
West Ham have only failed to score once at home this season – against Manchester City – while Manchester United have collected just two clean sheets on the road this season. Therefore, you’d expect West Ham to score a goal – especially against a United side set to feature significant rotation. Meanwhile, United will simply have too many attacking options for the Hammers, so I think both sides to score at [1.7] is a good back.
The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson
United have won eight and drawn one of their last nine Premier League games but changes are expected. Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra are reportedly going to be rested, and Robin van Persie, who has played in more matches (21 starts, four substitute appearances) than any other United player, may also be given an afternoon off.
West Ham currently occupying a mid-table league position mostly due to their fine start to the season, but they have won only twice in their last nine fixtures (lost five of the last eight). There latest game though produced a 2-1 victory on New Year’s Day against Norwich City.
Much will depend on the side that Sir Alex Ferguson puts out so it is difficult to say that United at [1.76] are a good or bad price to win the game. One thing United have delivered all season is goals both for and against. Therefore, from the kick off I will be backing both teams to win 2-1 - West Ham [17.0] and United [9.2]. However, in running, if the Reds score in the first 20 minutes, I will be looking to get on over 3.5 goals at anything better than evens (2.0).
03 January 2013