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Manchester United Preview

Filed: Friday, 4th December 2009
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy has a quick butcher's at Saturday's visit of the current Premiership Champions.....

Next up we entertain the lot from Salford in – wait for it – our second home Saturday 3pm kick-off in a row. Mr TV executive you spoil us.

Our opponents currently lie in second spot with 31 points from their 14 games, some five points behind Chelsea. As a horse-racing man, Ferguson would n doubt describe their position as “handily placed tucked-in behind the leader.” They’ve lost three times in the league this season, at Chelsea, Liverpool and, most surprisingly, at Burnley at the start of the season. Their last outing saw them overcome Pompey at Fratton Park last week, where a Wayne Rooney hat-trick and Ryan Giggs’ 100th Premiership goal gave them a 4-1 win. They're through to the semi-finals of the League Cup against Man City, their kids having comfortably sen off Spurs in midweek. They have also safely negotiated the interminably dull group stages of the Champions' League, despite their recent home defat at the hands of the Turkish side Besiktas.

They’ve had a few injuries to contend with this season. In goal they have missed Van Der Sar for much of the season with firstly a finger injury then a knee problem. Ben Foster has deputised but they started with Kuszczak both at Fratton and in the midweek League Cup win over Spurs. However, Van Der Sar’s knee would appear to have healed enough for him to start this weekend.

The most notable of their absentees is, of course, Rio Ferdinand who seemed to have such a promising career before leaving for a tour of England’s least liked clubs. He’s been out for ages with a calf muscle problem, something that has at least had one silver lining in so far as Matty Upson’s tally of England caps has benefited from Rio’s absence.

Another long-term absentee has been Owen Hargreaves, Salford’s own Kieron Dyer, who has been suffering from what is known as “Jumper’s Knee”. No really it is. After an unimpressive spell in an England shirt, the injury jinx hit the Canadian-born midfielder just as he began to show some decent form. He, like Rio, is said to be close to a return but this one will be a week or three too early for him.

Of course despite the injuries, the finances involved at a club never short of an idea to make a quick buck out of one of the more gullible sets of supporters mean that they have a damned strong squad. Attacking options include the likes of Rooney, Berbatov and our old nemesis Owen who seems to have scored in just about every game he has played against us. Add the likes of Giggs to the mix and it is clear that our defence will have its work cut out this weekend.

With a squad the depth of theirs it is difficult to predict their starting line-up, though goalkeeper apart I personally would not be surprised to see a similar starting XI to that which won comfortably at Pompey. This had a back four comprising Neville, Vidic, Brown and Evra and a midfield of Giggs, Scholes, Fletcher and ex-Hammer Michael Carrick. Fletcher seems to have won over the tourists since the infamous Roy Keane interview a few years back in which the Irishman described the Scottish midfielder as being “not good enough” for the club. Unusual to hear something controversial from Keane – he’s usually so guarded with his opinions. Other midfield options include the South Korean Park (insert your own canine/DVD joke here) and the Brazilian Anderson.

There has been one bright spot of news on our own injury front. Unfortunately it involves an ex-player rather than a current one. However, the news that John Hartson has been told that his testicular cancer has been “virtually eradicated” is none the less welcome for that.

As for the current squad, the loss of our main striker in Carlton Cole for at least six matches is a devastating one and the prospect of going into the next month or so with a strike force of Hines and Franco is not one that appeals. Also missing will be Behrami, whose recent surgery will probably keep him out until January, plus Upson and Diamanti, both of whom are at least a week away from a return. Noises from Chadwell Heath suggest that Dyer might be fit to take some part in the proceedings, though if the weather doesn’t start to warm up a bit expect to see his hamstring lasting about as long as pie in the Lampard household should he finally make an appearance.

It doesn’t take a genius in tactical analysis to recognise that our defence has been a bit of a problem this season. The nature of all three goals conceded last week – tap-ins from crosses – should set alarm bells ringing if nothing else does. This suggests problems in the full-back positions. Ilunga has shown a shadow of last season’s form whilst Neill has never been properly been replaced on the right. Faubert can contribute going forward but is a liability defensively speaking, whilst Spector should really only ever be considered as a squad player. The centre of defence has hardly covered itself in glory either this season. Upson and Tomkins have been far from their best. Da Costa is still adjusting to the Premiership, Gabbidon is still adjusting to playing football again full stop. James Collins is, sadly, plying his trade these days in a claret and blue (as opposed to just claret) shirt.

The state of the defence – as evidenced by the fact that we actually needed five goals to beat a Burnley side with only one point all season from their travels – does not bode well for this match. Yes, they are not infallible as the Burnley and Besiktas results would suggest. However, whilst we have a history of pulling off results against this lot against the odds it’s the sort of bet that one would only take on in hope rather than expectation. For that reason, and given the major disparity between the depths of the two squads, I’m afraid that even at my most optimistic I can’t see us getting anything out of this match. Without Cole, scoring will be a problem and, with the defence failing to inspire much in the way of confidence, the best I can predict this week is a 3-0 defeat I’m afraid.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: Lost 0-1 - Ryan Giggs’ second half effort was enough to give the visitors the points.

Referee: Peter Walton – Last seen away at Stoke last season booking Lucas Neill for arguing with a ballboy about a towel – yes really!

Danger Man: Take your pick – though if Owen gets on the pitch his record against us is frightening.

Look out for: Lots of shiny new scarves – apparently the club sponsors are dishing out the accessories celebrating one year of involvement with the club. Since the items in question mention the Bobby Moore Fund they will be in no way tacky ok?

Long in the memory will the 1-0 Hammers win at Old Trafford 2 years ago live. A triumph on so many levels and it’s got to be said that the 6/1 with extrabet.com to beat the Champions at home this weekend feels a big price. They lost by a single goal last year and won the 2 years previous to that. United are not the force they where last season it seems and without Rooney there are issues up front.

West Ham of course are well off their best but it never seems to matter when it comes to United for some reason. Elsewhere on the spreads here at extrabet the Time of the 1st West Ham Goal is 63-66 minutes. Remember Sell at 63 mins if you think they’ll score before then and Buy if you think they won’t score or at least won’t score till after the 66th minute.

Every team has one and West Ham are Man United’s. Punters will undoubtedly pile into West Ham at the prices so we’re bracing ourselves for a Hammer-blow!
- Chris Shillington, extrabet.com

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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