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Manchester United v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 20th December 2013
By: Preview Percy

When we popped over to the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered earlier on to pick up Preview Percy's latest ramblings we spotted him laying out trip wires on the path up to the front door. It must be carol singing season. Here's the mad one's thoughts on this weekend's trip to Old Trafford....

Next we travel up to Old Trafford where Manchester United will be our hosts. Kick off is, saints be praised, at 3.00pm. Network Rail and TfL seem to have called some sort of pre-Christmas truce on engineering works so just the usual stuff to contend with then.

It’s been a strange old season for the child poisoners thus far. They’re currently sitting in 8th spot with 25 points from their 16 matches so far. That’s 6 points from the Really Important, No Really It Is Thursday Night League spot currently held by Everton, 7 points from the last of the so-called Champions League slots held by their neighbours from Manchester and a massive 10 points off the top where Arsenal sit looking nervously over their shoulders.

At home they’re on a defeat hat-trick, with both Newcastle and Everton coming away with all three points in recent weeks. Their last match in the league, however, saw them turn over Villa 3-0 at Villa Park.

There is of course one major candidate in the list of reasons for this apparent change in fortune, namely the retirement of “Sir” Alex Ferguson. Ferguson was given a diamond award at the increasingly dreadful Sports Personality Of The Year awards last weekend. Whoever came up with that one at the Beeb decided to ignore a lifetime of refereeing intimidation and involvement in dubious transfer dealings to present their award. Presumably Lance Armstrong wasn’t available to pick up a gong. Ferguson’s gone now and the job went, to nobody’s surprise, to David Moyes. After so many years there was always going to be a transitional element to the season I suppose.

Another candidate for “reasons that they're not doing so well” was their activity in the transfer market. Or, more accurately their lack of activity. The tonsorially-challenged Marouane Fellaini was their only signing. He arrived at the close of the window for a reported £27.5m. This was some £4m more than it would have cost them had they made a bid before 31 July, that being the buy-out clause in the player's contract. It's not as if Moyes wouldn't have been aware of the clause – he was there when it was negotiated. The reason for the late deal was cited as being Moyes' desire to complete the move as part of a double deal involving Leighton Baines. Whether or not Moyes intended to help his old mates out, that was certainly the net effect.

That deal contrasted sharply with their attempts to sign Athletic Bilbao's Ander Herrera. Herrera's buy out clause was supposedly about £30m but the Salford lot refused to budge from their opening bid of something like £24m. Atheltic were reluctant to reduce the fee – especially since their policy of employing only players with some sort of connection with the Basque country means that the pool of available players is not limitless. Maybe their resolve might have been tested more had the extra £4m spent on Fellaini had been thrown into the pot.

Fellaini has not exactly set the world alight since his trip along the M62 and has made only four starts in the league to date. So it's been left to the old guard to try and keep things ticking over. Top scorer, the spud-faced gerontophile Wayne Rooney missed the trip to Stoke in midweek, with a groin injury. He's probably counting his blessings since the injury meant that he didn't sustain any damage to the dodgy hair transplant job he had a while back from the hailstones that saw ref Clattenburg turn into a right wuss. Clattenburg claimed that he suspended the game because he couldn't see. Yeah right. Rooney is a doubt but has a “chance” of making a start.

One striker who will be missing is Robin Van Persie whose hip & thigh problems will keep him out until the new year. So at least that's one player who won't be upholding the Old Trafford tradition of suckering referees.

Back in the day, the only Man Utd player who was “unsteady on his feet” was George Best – and that was usually for a completely different set of reasons. However, aided by their erstwhile manager's helpful verbal assistance to officials they've had any number of Tom Daleys in the squad. In Van Persie's absence, the mantle of Chief Cheat In Residence has fallen to Ashley Young. Young's propensity to come over all unnecessary in the box has caused much mirth in what the spotty work experience kid here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered calls “cyberspace”, where mock-ups of film posters for epics such as “Dive Hard” and “You Only Dive Twice” have what the spotty work experience kid calls “gone viral”. Moyes claims to have had a word with Young about this habit back in September, but given that not much seems to have changed one can only presume that the word included the phrase “carry on”.

The other striking option is Danny Welbeck. Welbeck is a strange cove – he seems to have better form for the national side than he does for his club. Having said that that's a recipe for him to score against us (see also Chamakh and Adebayor). Especially as his mood will have been improved by the brace he picked up against Villa.
Further back in the pitch they've welcomed back Darren Fletcher. Fletcher has missed the better part of two years with ulcerative colitis, which is one of the more unusual – if not unique – reasons for absence. Certainly knocks Devonshire Flu into a cocked hat. He's early into his comeback so may be on the bench.

The other injury absentees will be ex-Hammer Michael Carrick and sweet delicate thing Nemanja Vidic, who spent one of the matches last season continually elbowing Andy Carroll. Ferguson did his usual trick of avoiding awkward questions by brazenly heading the truth off at the pass, claiming that Vidic was lucky to escape serious injury. Quite “Sir” Alex – Carroll's head is so hard Vidic could easily have broken his elbow on it.

And what of us I would hear you ask but for the fact that my hearing aid is turned off to avoid listening to carol singers. It was a nice win in the League Cup the other night wasn't it? Going 1-0 up very much represented a turning point in the match for them. A late desperate flurry at the end that required a decent save from Adrian apart, that was just about it from the home side. Our performance in the last 15-20 minutes was pleasing and, even had we gone away with the 1-0 defeat that looked possible, I personally wouldn’t have been too put out. However, winning the thing was rather sweet – I must revisit the “comments section after this column as soon as I’ve stopped laughing. I felt particularly pleased for Modibo Maiga. One cannot overstress the importance of confidence for a striker. Could you have seen Maiga taking on that effort that crashed back off the bar BEFORE he got his goal for example?

Of course we should temper our celebrations by considering that we did rather sportingly start with a reserve line up to try to make more of a game of it – and still won. Maybe the Ladies XI would like a go next time. Or perhaps they could merge with someone good to try to make the fixture competitive again, like when GB & I were joined by the rest of Europe for the Ryder Cup (the only televised golf that is actually watchable).

Team news is that Tomkins faces a test on his groin problem, though his absence from the team on Wednesday may have been precautionary in nature. In the event that he's not fit expect Linda to continue his partnership in the middle with Ginge. Otherwise it; as you were on the injury list, with Petric & Vaz Te showing up as “no return date”, Reid listed as end January, Downing February and Carroll intriguingly showing up as New Year's Day.

Prediction? We won't win of course. Quite apart from the fact that two on the trot seems to be beyond us at the moment you know full well that, even if referees aren't quite as scared as they used to be of the management up there as they once were, old habits die hard and they'll go out of their way to give the home side a leg-up. So, on this occasion the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home's fund to buy a wreath for Tottenham (£2.50) will be going on a 2-1 home win.

Enjoy the game!

And from Matron, The Spotty Work Experience Kid, Algernon (Mine Host at the Swan And Superinjunction) and all at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered, including, I suppose me, have a merry Christmas.

If you must.

When last we met at Old Trafford – Lost 1-0 (FA Cup 3rd Round Replay January 2013) Rooney put them 1-0 up inside 10 minutes then got what was, even for them, an embarrassing penalty for an alleged handball by Jordan Spence. Rafael’s more obvious effort, unsurprisingly, was waved on and Sam got a fine for pointing out that referees effectively act as 12th man for the home side up there. Allardyce was charged under the Official Secrets Act.

Referee: Mike JonesDishonest official (see Stoke FA Cup QF at Stoke a few years back) who is not well thought of even amongst the refereeing fraternity. An ex-referee acquaintance who has the chair nearest the fire in the Swan & Superinjunction ran the line for him a number of times and referred to him as an “arrogant p*ick.” Newcastle’s Sissoko did to him accidentally what most of football would happily have paid to do deliberately when laying  him out last weekend. Throw in the fact that this is The Theatre Of Dives and you have a recipe for disaster.

Danger Man: Danny Welbeck in a spot of form after picking up a brace against Villa.

Daft Fact Of The Week: To this day Old Trafford is the only ground in the country where I’ve been asked directions by a “home” supporter.

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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