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West Ham United v Manchester United

Filed: Thursday, 20th March 2014
By: Preview Percy

This week's effort from Preview Percy is earlier than usual due to his having a prior engagement. It's no better though....

Next, after what seems like an eternity away from the place, we return to home soil where we will play host to Manchester United. Kick-off is 5:30pm – something to do with tv, though with all the rail problems in Devon their support will be grateful for the extra few hours for the journey. The tubes in the area look pretty ok though there’s a lot of closures on the toytown railway that is the DLR so check before travelling if you’re one of those people who love to battle for the front seat so you can pretend to be a train driver.

Our opponents come to us in 7th place having gleaned 48 points from their 29 games thus far, which will probably see them stave off relegation. This leaves them in the unusual position of possibly being the only club in the league that actually wants to go for Thursday Night League qualification at the moment. In that respect they are two places and five points behind Spurs over whom they have a game in hand. Current form in the league has been patchy. The last 6 read LDDWWL which I make a tally of 8 points from the last 18.

Certainly it's the sort of season that will see many of their “supporters” considering a switch of allegiance similar to the one that saw them pitch up at Old Trafford in the first place. What with the cost of travel and everything these days maybe Chelsea will find cause to dust off those stadium extension plans once more. In the meantime if you want evidence of how far they've plummeted since referees stopped being frightened of the manager, just look at the reaction to the win over Olympiakos, which was greeted by the sort of reaction one would expect had they won the competition, rather than having struggled past the best that er, Greece could offer.

Their most recent league outing saw the historic awarding of three penalties to an away side at Old Trafford for the first time since records began. Ok so they were awarded to Liverpool, a side containing more divers than a North Sea Oil port, but even so it was an unusual sight. The spotty work experience kid who does the research for this column notes that this takes the total number of penalties ever awarded to away sides at Old Trafford to four, though I suspect he may well be indulging in a spot of litotes for comic effect on this occasion.

The award of one of those penalties at the weekend has exacerbated a bit of a defensive problem. Given the number of trophies that the visitors owe to their ability to go to ground in the box at the slightest mention of the possibility that an opponent might be standing somewhere in the same postcode area, there was a small bit of poetic justice that it was a Sturridge dive that resulted in the dismissal of Vidic I suppose. The resulting suspension though has left them a bit short on numbers at the back. Injuries to Smalling – win a pound on commentator bingo each time his non-league background is mentioned – and Evans required the pressing into service of our old friend Rio “he watches from the stand” Ferdinand, whose creaking bones and back problems have seen him used sparingly in recent times. Evans apparently faces a test on his calf/shin injury and, given Rio’s admission that two games a week on a regular basis is probably beyond him these days, Evans may well be pushed into service a little bit ahead of schedule should he come even close to passing that test.

Towards the end of Wednesday's so-called Champions League tie, hat-trick scorer Robin Van Persie took a whack to the back of the knee and is listed as a doubt for Saturday. My need to file this with the editors early this week (it's the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's Annual Tea Dance and Corn Shaving Night) means that I'm not quite as up to date with the injury stuff as I might otherwise be but the latest news I have is that he's more likely than not to be fit.

Replacing Van Thingy the other night was Marouanne Fellaini, who followed David Moyes along the M62 at the start of the season. Fellaini hasn't had the most inspiring of seasons and the fact that his best 5 minutes in a red shirt involved him desperately trying to run down the clock in the corner flag in a bid to prevent the away goal that would have knocked them out probably tells its own story.

Having had the full 90 against the mighty (titter) Greeks it remains to be seen how much or little we will see of fellow geriatric philanderer Ryan Giggs this weekend. John Cleese (allegedly a Hammer) once co-wrote a book with psychiatrist Robyn Skinner entitled “Families, And How To Survive Them”. It's probably fair to say that, in the unlikely event of Giggs actually owning a copy of said book, it's not one of the more well-thumbed tomes in the Giggs library.

They will be able to call on the services of Wayne Rooney. Much has been made of spud-face's signing of a new contract but Matron probably hit the nail on the head when she commented “when you think about it, where else would he actually go?” She's right you know. They would be unlikely to flog them to anyone in direct competition with them (and these days that's the likes of Southampton) and who amongst the European giants would be interested in signing someone who, whilst admittedly a thorn in our side over the years would hardly be likely to cause too many sleepless nights in, say, the Messi household.

And, I hear you say, what of us? Well last week changes were made. As Mr Allardyce admitted later they were probably a mistake, though whether or not he reverts to the line-up of previous weeks is another matter. Reid chose his first start since his injury to have one of his weaker games of the season whilst the Nocerino seemed similarly ill at ease. Downing also had an off day which meant that a significant chunk of the team were not at their best. Even then we were arguably denied a point by yet another refereeing decision that beggared belief. To see the ref mouth the words “not his arm” just makes you wonder exactly how dreadful a referee has to be before someone actually decides enough is enough.

On the selection front it's pretty much as you were with only Boriello and O'Brien definitely out. The silence coming from the club on Boriello has been pretty deafening. Jack Collison will also be missing from the squad having signed on loan for Wigan for the rest of the season. Having featured rarely this season, it may be that the player has played his last game for us, in which case we wish him all the best and give him the following advice: If you shake hands with Dave Whelan, count your fingers afterwards.

Prediction? Well this lot have a habit of raising their game against us – usually with some suspicious assistance from the officials. However, I fancy us for this one- they had a tough time against the mighty (tee hee) Greeks and, should he play against us, Rio isn't the player he once was. I'll therefore be putting the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's fund to buy us inmates Lamborghinis (£2.50) on a 2-1 home win to cheer us all up as Spring is, er, sprung.

Enjoy the game!
When last we met at the Boleyn: Drew 2-2 Goals from Vaz Te and a superb strike from Mo Diame put us 2-1 up. A late Van Persie equaliser was all the more galling for it being five yards offside.

Referee: Lee Mason Last seen handling the 2-0 win at Cardiff though he will be remembered for handing Chelsea three points during their visit to the Boleyn this season.

Danger Man: Wayne Rooney – had an awful match in the corresponding match last season which probably means he'll be hard to handle this time round.

Daft fact of the week: Manchester is a city and Metropolitan area in North West England with a population of a shade over 500,000, though the wider conurbation plays host to some 2m+ poor sods. Just a bit of information for any visiting supporters out there. We like to educate where possible.

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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