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Manchester United v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 26th September 2014
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy has had a stupid grin on his face all week. And, for once, it wasn't down to his ill fitting dentures. Well not all of it anyway. Before they sedated him for the day he had a look at this weekend's trip to Old Trafford. If only they'd given him the pills earlier.....

No sooner do we get one bunch of diving moaners who aren't nearly as good as they think they are out of the way than we journey up the M6 and turn right at the appropriate moment to Old Trafford where Manchester United will be our hosts. Kick-off is 3pm on Saturday. No engineering works but if you're going up by car or charabanc bear in mind you'll be joining the queues on the motorways of people who haven't quite made up their minds to change to Chelsea yet.

Our hosts sit in 12th place with 5 points from 5 games . That's two points and four places behind us. The five points have come courtesy of one win (QPR at home 4-0) and two draws, both away at Burnley (0-0) and Sunderland (1-1). The remaining two defeats came on the opening day of the season at home to Swansea (1-2) and, of course Sunday's hilarious 5-3 reverse at Leicester.

Here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home for the Bewildered the medics have been working overtime to quell the uncontrollable laughter that we've all been suffering from here. It was an unusual experience really. Given the inexplicable exposure given over the years to Ken Dodd, Jimmy Tarbuck, Stan Boardman, Tom O'Connor and, least talented of all, Cilla Bloody Black, I can't remember the last time I actually laughed so much at something coming out of Liverpool. By Sunday lunchtime we'd calmed down a bit (after all the food here is no laughing matter) and we popped out to the Swan and Superinjunction to watch events unfold from Leicester. Obviously for the first hour or so there was little to disturb the equilibrium until shortly after the visitors went 3-1 up. Then things got funny. Really funny.

The tuning point goal should have been disallowed, no question. Seeing Moan Utd finally get stitched up by a refereeing decision after all those years of seeing the men in black giving them points and trophies for free was brilliant enough, but the fact that Leicester went on to take full advantage of the freebie had the customers in the saloon bar laughing so much we were spitting out our pints of Allardyce's Old Speckled Midfield Diamond (10%ABV) all over the place. Even the work experience kid with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips, whose last bout of laughter came when we played her the death of Bambi's mother on DVD, broke into a grin over her pint of snakebite.

They've not been at their best since the miserable control freak Ferguson retired of course. The appointment of Moyes last season had been pretty much an open secret for quite some time. The former Everton boss inherited a changing room that was cliquey and resistant to change. Moyes' transfer dealings were less than impressive. Hoping to do a double swoop on his old club for Fellaini and Baines he ended up with only the Belgian half of the deal, embarrassingly paying £4m more than the release clause in the player's contract. Juan Mata came in for £37m in January but the fact that Chelsea felt able to get rid of Mata to a team that had previously been considered as rivals spoke volumes. Mata's arrival improved things not one little bit and, within nanoseconds of it being confirmed that they'd be watching European football from the sofa this season, Moyes received his P45 from the Glazer family.
Ryan Giggs took over for the back end of the season, though rumours that a sofabed was installed in the manager's office are of course silly. The Glazers picked up Louis Van Gaal from the Dutch FA after the World Cup and Giggs was appointed his assistant. The sofabed therefore went straight into the assistant manager's office.

Unlike Moyes, Van Gaal went the other way with transfers, showing something like 19 payers the door either permanently or on loan, bringing in Danny Blind from Ajax, Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao, Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon and Luke Shaw from Southampton. Plus, of course, the £6m loan fee for Radamel Falcao. Yup you read that right £6m for a loan. And that's not counting the cost of matching his salary from Monaco which, with them having to pick up UK tax costs as well, will be substantial. £6m for a loan is a ludicrous amount of money that is difficult to comprehend. However, as ever we at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered are here to help: all you have to do to know exactly how it feels to incur a £6m loan fee is simply borrow £2.50 from a payday loan company for a couple of weeks. Thank us later.

Shaw's time at Old Trafford has been a bit odd. Having cost somewhere between £27-30m from the Southampton exodus sale, Shaw found himself training alone for a bit, Van Gaal declaring the player to be not fit enough for the job he'd been bought for. A hamstring tweak didn't help matters much and the 19 year-old left back has yet to make a league appearance for the club.

Unlike Angel Di Maria. The finance directors of Europe's clubs were rubbing their hands with glee when Man Utd went shopping this summer. Real Madrid were no exception and a cool £60m (give or take) swapped hands for the Argentinian international midfielder's services. Presumably they didn't use PayPal for that one. Di Maria's goal against Leicester was a peach and they're going to need him to keep it up, if only to counteract the effects of their defence. That's certainly the belief in the changing room where the words “why the f*** did we sub Di Maria” were heard during a post-match “frank exchange of views” up at Leicester at the weekend.

Ah yes their defence. For most of their lives Man Utd and Liverpool have been trying to outdo each other. It's a toss-up between them for the “most ignorant/arrogant supporters award” and over the years I'd hate to have to do the calculations for the “Club most likely to be given a bent decision by a referee” trophy. However, from their point of view I think their recent entries into the “worst defence in the league” title have been a bit misguided. In Man Utd's case the Vidic/Ferdinand partnership that stood them in good stead in the past was already past its sell by date before last season. With the shedload of cash going on attacking players, a defensive roster containing the likes of Smalling, Jones, Evans and the like doesn't exactly fill opposition strikers with fear. Ok £16m or so went on Rojo, whose debut was delayed over work permit issues (something about outstanding criminal charges relating to his introducing an Argentinian neighbour's head to the blunt edge of a bottle), but even so it's a line up that will see forwards salivating rather than shivering.
And that's even without considering who is actually available. Evans limped off at the weekend and will be out for an unspecified time. Jones's hamstring – picked up on international duty – will take another few weeks and old boy Carrick, who has been known to do a stint in the middle of defence, is also injured. Add to that the absence of Tyler Blackett (I'm sure that was the name of one of the baddies who lived on the other side of the Ponderosa ranch in 1950's/60's tv Western “Bonanza”) after his red card at the weekend means that it's bare bones at the back.

Blackett, bafflingly, is apparently being fast tracked for a full England call-up despite a) having played only a few first team matches, and b) having looked poor in those matches. I'm not suggesting that James Tomkins is international class for a minute but if Blackett is in the frame he must be scratching his head nevertheless.

I guess it's about time I spoke about us. Fine performance, fine result last weekend. The only thing missing was that when we went to watch the match again on th e I even noted a grudging comment from a moaning scouser at the bottom of last week's column though this was tempered with the usual caveat in the form of criticising us for a “physical approach”. Even by their own warped standards that was a bit rich. Clearly the 23 stitches put into the back of Downing's leg last term have been subjected to the usual selective Merseyside memory lapse. And don't even get me started on the number of times Sterling and Borini dived last Saturday. Or the cynical strategic “injuries” that would mysteriously arrive when we were in possession and disapper a nanosecond after the ref had stopped play. Two bob club, two bob fans.

The one down side of last weekend's efforts has been the injury to Wile-e Kouyate who battled through the match doing unspecified damage to his groin, an injury aggravated by his playing on bravely once all our substitutions had been made. He's had an excellent start to the season and his influence will be missed over the next few weeks. Poyet has been talked up as a possible replacement, though they've also been talking about sending “son of Gus” out on loan as well.

The other absentees will be the usuals – Nolan and Jarvis (who recommence training on Monday apparently), Carroll (back in November) and O'Brien (lord knows).

Prediction? The splendid victory against Liverpool coupled with their indifferent form has had many people predicting great things for us this weekend. I'm thinking slightly more cautiously though. Whilst it's true that this would appear to be as good a time as any to play them, the likes of Di Maria are still capable of conjuring goals out of nothing.
That's not to say we're not well placed to get something out of this match.

We won't be going up there with any sort of inferiority complex which is just as well. QPR showed what can happen when you go up there with a view to damage limitation from the start. Mind you QPR also showed what can happen when you go up there with a squad full of very average players managed by Redknapp as well.

I think we have enough about ourselves to get a decent point here - as long as the idiot in charge of the game behaves himself and actually referees the match in an honest and correct manner (don't laugh there's a first time for everything). So I'm off down to Winstone's Turf Accountants where I'm going to put the first of matron's payday loan repayments (£2.50 – with only 2,399,999 further repayments to go) on an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Old Trafford: Lost 1-3 – Carlton Cole's goal was a consolation and they probably didn't need the traditional assistance from liar and referee Mike Jones. They got it anyway though, as a stonewall penalty got turned down.

Referee: Lee Mason Another of the “I do what I want because I can” brigade. Refereed us four times last season and made game changing errors in three of them. It's not just us though - this seems to be a common occurrence in his matches. An analysis of his decision making a few seasons ago came up with some absolutely shocking stats – they were even worse than those of the universally derided (even by his fellow referees) Atwell. You may wonder why he's still in the select group....

Danger Man: Angel Di Maria I don't suppose we'll be lucky enough to see him subbed too early this time around.

Daft facts of the week: Manchester United's start to last season under David Moyes (7 points from 5 games) was actually better than Van Gaal's start to this season (5 from 5).

Van Gaal is the first Man Utd manager to concede 4 or more goals to a newly-promoted side and, until last weekend, Di Maria had never lost a league match in which he'd scored.

The work experience kid with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips has loads more of this stuff but didn't want to start the uncontrollable laughter off again.

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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