The last time Manchester United and West Ham United met was at Old Trafford in early December, with the two sides playing out a goalless draw after a reasonably equally contested game in the Premier League.
At that point in time, United sat at sixth in the table, one point ahead of West Ham in seventh. Currently, the Hammers are in fifth, two points ahead of the Red Devils. With the FA Cup being the only realistic shot at some silverware for both sides, there are no doubts that the quarter final on Sunday will be one to watch.
The last round saw Manchester United defeat Shrewsbury Town 3-0 away from home, the goals coming from Chris Smalling, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard. Elsewhere, West Ham stunned Blackburn Rovers with five goals, coming back from 1-0 down against the Championship side to win 5-1.
However, Manchester United go into this game on the back of two defeats. Louis van Gaal’s side lost unexpectedly to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday in the league, as Mata received a red card early on.
Thursday night’s disastrous performance followed and saw United lose to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at Anfield in the Europa League. United will feel the weight on their shoulders going into the game after recent speculation regarding van Gaal’s future at the club, but with home advantage on their side the fans will be expecting an instant response from their disappointing form this week.
The visitors will arrive in Manchester as favourites, entering the game on a six game unbeaten streak in all competitions. West Ham’s previous wins include a dramatic injury time win at Everton, coming from 2-0 down, and a 1-0 London derby win at home to Tottenham Hotspur.
Ahead of the third round game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Slaven Bilic declared he would “rather win the FA Cup than finish in the top four of the Premier League."
However, the way things are going, both are still in the Hammers' sights as we enter the final stretch of the season.
Similarly, van Gaal has claimed that he would “rather Manchester United won the FA Cup than the Europa League,” though the latter has been thrown into huge doubt after Thursday's 2-0 loss on Merseyside.
Predicted Line ups
It is expected that Van Gaal will line-up in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, a formation he has chosen for the majority of this season. As the huge injury list looming over the head of the Manchester United boss eases away, and with the recent return of Smalling, one expects the Red Devils' to line up as follows:
Manchester United predicted XI: De Gea; Darmian, Rojo, Smalling, Blind; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Depay, Herrera, Martial; Rashford.
Although experimenting with a 3-4-2-1 in recent games, it is expected that Bilic will field a team in a 4-3-3 formation this weekend. As well as being James Collins, Wintston Reid and Joey O’Brien due to injury, there are reported to be small doubts over the availability of both Enner Valencia and Victor Moses. Attacking full-back Sam Byram is cup-tied so will not play a part against the Red Devils.
West Ham predicted XI: Adrian; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Oxford, Kouyate, Lanzini, Noble, Obiang, Antonio, Payet, Sakho.
Ones to Watch
Fan favourite Dimitri Payet seems to always be a player to watch in this West Ham side. The midfielder scored two in his last FA Cup outing and has continued his tremendous form in the league.
Another fan favourite is the home side’s goalkeeper. David De Gea has saved Manchester United on many occasions this season, adding a man of the match performance to his individual success on Thursday night at Anfield.
The question is, will the Spaniard be able to prevent Payet from finding the back of the net once more?
With both sides favouring the FA Cup this season, Manchester United fighting for form, and West Ham leading the way in terms of current form, it is destined to be a feisty and entertaining affair between the two Premier League rivals for a spot in the semi finals.