Manchester United’s defensive problems could play in West Ham’s hands

Injuries give Hammers excellent chance at Upton Park

Manchester United are five points clear at the top of the Premier League, but second place Arsenal do have a game in hand.

United have terrible injury problems and although Nemanja Vidic is set to have recovered from a calf injury which has seen him miss two matches.

The powerful defender trained with Serbia ahead of their match with Northern Ireland, but did not play and it remains to be seen if manager Sir Alex Ferguson risks him.

Even with Vidic fit, the Scot only has Chris Smalling, Patrice Evra and Fabio da Silva to call upon..

Former Hammers Academy Graducate Michael Carrick could play at centre half a position he took up last season when the two squared off at Upton Park.

United head into the contest in decent form after dispatching Bolton, Marseille and Arsenal in recent weeks, but consecutive league reverses against Liverpool and Chelsea led renewed hope for those chasing Ferguson’s men.

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United may have issues defensively but going forward there are still plenty of mouth-watering options.

Nani has been superb out wide for United this season and leads the Premier League assists table with 16, five more than his nearest rival, while 10 goals have also helped push his side towards the top of the table.

Berbatov is the leading Premier League scorer with 20, with his link up play just as important as the hatful of goals he has produced.

Wayne Rooney may not be the goal machine he was last term, but his work rate is as impressive as ever and although he may havescored just seven times in the league, he does have 11 assists to his name.

Many of which have helped provide fellow striker Javier Hernandez, who has shown the predatory instinct to rival that of fellow countryman and Mexican legend Hugo Sanchez.

His movement and finishing has been sublime for United and a 16-goal return in his first season in English football is an excellent effort.

Preventing service to either Berbatov or Hernandez will be essential and with both Nani and Antonio Valencia set to play, United will feel playing with width will give them their best chance of victory.

Wayne Bridge was tremendous against Spurs at left back and will need to be again to prevent Valencia, whose crossing was a key factor in Rooney scoring 35 goals last season.

If selected West Ham must close down Paul Scholes who was outstanding when the two met at Upton Park last season and will no doubt be again this time around if the Hammers allow him time and space when in possession.

West Ham’s best chance will be to attack United due to their injury-ravaged back line and with Avram Grant having all striking options available to him, it should make for an intriguing affair.

Prediction: West Ham 2 Manchester United 2

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