Sunday’s Premier League action closes out at the London Stadium as West Ham United and Manchester United face each other.
Despite fending off Manchester City’s attacks in the first half of their Wednesday trip to the Etihad Stadium, the Hammers succumbed to a woeful 3-0 defeat at full-time.
Pep Guardiola’s troops condemned West Ham to a third consecutive loss in the Premier League on Erling Braut Haaland’s landmark day, amplifying the threat of being drawn back into a relegation scrap.
With only four games left, David Moyes’ men hold a four-point lead on 18th-placed Nottingham Forest, highlighting the significance of avoiding defeat in this fixture.
Man United’s well-documented travel sickness could lend the Irons a helping hand, especially after Luke Shaw’s stoppage-time handball helped Brighton & Hove Albion topple the Red Devils 1-0 on Thursday.
Alexis Mac Allister’s last-gasp penalty marked United’s fourth failed attempt to take three points on their last five Premier League road trips (W1, D1, L3), putting pressure on Erik ten Hag to find a solution.
Although the Dutchman has successfully reinvigorated the fallen giants following last season’s underwhelming sixth-place finish, the team’s poor away record (W7, D3, L7) has tainted his recovery mission.
United’s form woes outside Old Trafford could fall into oblivion if the Red Devils secure Champions League qualification, which until a few days ago seemed like a done deal.
But after Liverpool’s five-match winning streak in the Premier League moved them within four points of fourth-placed Man Utd, the visitors’ top-four credentials will be on the line on Sunday.
Losing has been the least of Moyes’ problems, as his team have shown noticeable signs of defensive vulnerability they thought they had left in the past at the start of April.
West Ham have conceded at least twice in their last three league outings at an average of three per game, which may bode well for United’s bid to defy their scoring woes on the road.
Even taking the lead may not prove enough to get the Hammers out of this growing crisis, considering they’ve dropped a whopping 35 points from leading positions against Man United in the Premier League.
They have registered just seven victories in 21 top-flight encounters against the Red Devils after going up (D7, L7), highlighting the level of discomfort streaming through their veins ahead of the kick-off.
Moyes’ men have failed to win any of their last three league games at the London Stadium (D1, L2), conceding nine goals in that sequence.
It’s worth mentioning that each match in that span pitted them against sides starting this round in the top five, while Moyes himself is winless in his last ten Premier League touchline meetings with Man United (D2, L8).
Player to Watch: Lucas Paqueta
Paqueta has been West Ham’s most in-form player lately, clocking two goals and as many assists in his last four home appearances across all competitions.
To better understand his upturn in form, that’s double his tally from his first 16 outings at the London Stadium, featuring a mere two assists.
With a game in hand on Liverpool, Man United’s quest to return to the Champions League after a season-long absence should be safe and sound, yet avoiding another slip-up in London has become a necessity.
However, United’s recent visits to the capital have largely been an unpleasant experience, as they’ve won just one of their last eight Premier League away games against London sides (D3, L4).
Except for a 2-1 victory at Fulham in November, Ten Hag’s side have gone winless in their other five top-flight games in London this season (D3, L2), most recently wasting a 2-0 half-time lead to draw 2-2 at Tottenham Hotspur.
Against this backdrop, the Red Devils have emerged victorious on their last two league travels to meet West Ham, netting five goals while conceding two in return.
Home and away, Man United are enjoying a five-game winning run against the Hammers in the Premier League, bookended by a narrow 1-0 home triumph in the reverse fixture in October.
Ten Hag’s side ousted the London outfit afterwards, steamrolling to a come-from-behind 3-1 home win in the FA Cup round of 16 in March, which forms part of their convincing way into the impending final against Man City.
Player to Watch: Marcus Rashford
Although Rashford’s form has been in steady decline since a prolific start to the new calendar year, he’ll be under the spotlight after scoring Man Utd’s last goal in London.
Interestingly, three of his four Premier League goals against West Ham have come as a substitute.
In addition to long-term absentee Gianluca Scamacca, West Ham will have to manage without first-choice right-back Vladimir Coufal and defensive regular Kurt Zouma.
There are still question marks over the heads of Nayef Aguerd, Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek, which promises to give Moyes a sizeable selection headache.
However, all three should make the starting line-up despite not being 100% fit.
As for Man United, Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane, Phil Jones, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek are still unavailable for selection due to injuries.
But Alejandro Garnacho could make his long-awaited return to the matchday squad after recovering from an ankle problem he picked up against West Ham in the FA Cup.
West Ham United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Lucasz Fabianski; Thilo Kehrer, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd, Emerson Palmieri; Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice; Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma; Michail Antonio.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot; Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen; Antony, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho.
We Say: West Ham United 1-2 Manchester United
While West Ham’s rotten spell of form casts doubt on their ability to cope with European hopefuls, Man Utd’s travel sickness is too big of an issue to be overlooked.
But the Red Devils should still have enough ammunition to break the Hammers’ fragile backline multiple times and undo any potential damage their second-string defence is prone to making.