When Manchester United lost to West Ham almost exactly 12-months ago it was just one low point of a disappointing season which would ultimately lead to Jose Mourinho losing his job just before Christmas.
Of course his successor, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, would oversee an incredible turnaround in fortunes as caretaker manager by winning his first six games in charge; but things are a little different now for the current Old Trafford incumbent.
Yes, It’s a far cry from the doom and gloom which surrounded the 20-time Premier League champions at the turn of the year, though the dizzy heights of those early days under the club’s former striker seem like a distant memory now.
For many United fans it’s still very much a work in progress under the Norwegian, who has introduced plenty of new faces and boasts a starting XI with an average age of just 25 years and 51 days – the youngest in the Premier League this season.
Thursday’s Europa League win over Astana saw nine changes to United’s line-up with teenage striker Mason Greenwood announcing himself to the United faithful by scoring his first senior goal for the club.
And who is to say some of those new names won’t be in with a shout when it come to a place in the side against West Ham on Sunday afternoon with a number of injury concerns for the Red Devils?
Along with Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial are unlikely to be fit while the undoubted star of the campaign so far this term, Daniel James, has a back problem and could be a doubt for what is sure to be a tough test.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Solksjaer is his side’s lack of goals with 21-year-oldEngland striker Marrcis Rashford not finding the net from open play in five games, though he did score a penalty against Leicester last week and is 5.40* to score the first on Sunday.
The Norwegian doesn’t appear to be too concerned, however, claiming in his pre-match press conference: “He is still learning what finishes to make in different circumstances. I don’t worry about it.”
As for West Ham, Manuel Pellegrini’s team seem to be improving with every game and are now five games unbeaten since losing heavily to Manchester City on the opening weekend of the season.
There has been something of an air of optimism surrounding the London Stadium over the summer, mostly thanks to some good transfer business as the Hammers look to better last term’s position of 10th.
So playing an inconsistent looking United team on the back of a Thursday night Europa League fixture might be the ideal opportunity to bounce-back after a disappointing draw away at Aston Villa last Monday.
Dean Smith’s side had looked vulnerable going into to that game, but they but probably had the better chances over the 90 minutes, though a 0-0 away at Vila Park is never a disappointing result – a game which Declan Rice claims they would have lost 12 months ago.
The Londoners were reduced to ten-men following Arthur Masuaku’s red card, and his attacking instincts will be missed on Sunday as he begins what could be a costly suspension.
Other long-term absentees Michail Antonio and Winston Reid, Masuaku could well be the only change for the Hammers with manager Manuel Pellegrini upbeat ahead of the game: “Manchester United played on Thursday night but they changed nine players so it will be a different team,” he said prior to the game.
“We are in a good moment so, if we are playing against the big teams, we must show we can play in the same way.”
And the Chilean has every reason to be confident ahead of what is traditionally a lively clash as he comes into the fixture having won a Premier League game against three different Manchester United managers; David Moyes, Luis Van Gaal and José Mourinho with every chance of making that four on Sunday afternoon and can be backed at 3.30* to do just that.
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