THE FA CUP
VENUE – Boleyn Ground (Capacity – 35,016)
KO – 17: 15 GMT
A new season and a new beginning await the premier league teams in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Chelsea is the reigning champion of the competition. West Ham United and Manchester United both endured miserable runs in the cup last season. The London club was eliminated in the 3rd round by Sheffield Wednesday whilst Manchester United was knocked out fierce rivals Liverpool in the 4th round. This is a new season and both teams will be hoping to have an extended run in the competition this time around. The last time West Ham were the winners was back in 1980 while the Red Devils have not got their hands on the trophy since 2004. For Manchester United the FA cup usually a backseat to the league and European competitions but Sir Alex Ferguson will be keen to add a 11th FA cup title to the trophy cabinet. For Sam Allardyce and his men, this is one of the realistic chances to win a trophy.
Sam Allardyce and his team are doing decently this season. They are 11th in the table after winning promotion last season from the Championship. Kevin Nolan since joining from Bolton has been brilliant.
The captain has scored 5 goals this season and has been very influential for the Hammers. Nolan’s former teammate at Bolton, Jussi Jaaskalainen has also been in very good form. He has started every match for the London club this season. The problem that the Allardyce has been facing is the indifferent form of his strike force. Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole and Mohammed Maiga have a combined goal tally of 5. It is a worrying factor the manager as eventually this problem is going to haunt them. The midfield can only do so much. Diame and Nolan have been highlights of the season but unless their strikers start to deliver goals they are in real trouble. Their defense has been much better this season. Tomkins and Reid have been brilliant in defense. With the star studded attack of Manchester United, the defense needs to be at their best. The FA cup is the only realistic chance for the Hammers to win a trophy this season and they will leave no stone unturned to progress to the 4th round.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be happy after the New Year’s Day victory over Wigan Atheltic. The win maintains their 7 point lead over nearest rivals Manchester City. With the league taking a break, the Scot will be looking to freshen up the team by resting several first teamers. The likes of Carrick will be able to have a week off before the crunch game against Liverpool next week. United have not won the trophy since 2004 and Ferguson will be hoping to set that record straight this season. He will look to fringe players to grab their opportunity with both hands and give the first teamers a run for their money. Hernandez and Persie, both scored a brace against Wigan and with Welbeck in the fray both might get a rest with Hernandez starting on the bench. Last year the Red Devils were eliminated in the 4th round by Liverpool. New season and new expectations come with it. Ferguson’s team has drawn a Premier League in the 3rd round for the third successive season. With regaining the league title and the Champions League given more importance this season, the FA Cup is the perfect opportunities for the team to give first team action to the younger players as well as give players returning from injury game time. Despite the fact that the team will have a fresh look to it, Ferguson will want to end up on the winning side and prepare for the Liverpool match with a winning note.
West Ham United – This is an important match for the London club and they will put up a strong side for the match. Former Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskalainen will start in goal. James Tomkins would start on the right side of a defensive four with namesake James Collins and Winston Reid starting in the centre of defense. Joey O’ Brien has been a steady influence in the team and is a starter on the left side of defense. Matt Jarvis who last year won his first international cap has transferred his form for Wolverhampton Wanderers to his new club. The young pacy winger plays on the left wing and will look to trouble Rafael on Manchester United’s right. On the other flank Matt Taylor will start ahead of Tomkins. In the middle of the park Mark Noble partners Gary O’ Neill. The partnership will be responsible for the cancelling out the attack of Manchester United’s attacks. The problematic area for Sam Allardyce is the strike force. Kevin Nolan is a definite starter and it will be a tough decision for the manager as to who starts with him. Cole seems to be the best choice given his decent performances this season but he is only ahead of Carroll by a small margin.
Manchester United – In the press conference to run to this fixture Ferguson clearly mentioned the fact that he will rotate the squad. Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra were the only outfield players to have started in all 4 games in the festive period. Both are sure to be rested for the match. Lindegaard will replace De Gea in goal. The Dane will get much needed first team action while the Spaniard gets a rest. Buttner will start at left back in place of Evra. Rafael may start at right back as he was injured for a while and needs first team football to be ready for the match against Liverpool next weekend. Smalling and Vidic might feature giving Evans and Ferdinand a rest. With Kagawa returning from injury, the manager may opt for a diamond formation with Scholes and Cleverly in the middle. Danny Welbeck may get the nod ahead of Hernandez as the Mexican may start in the match against Liverpool. Robin van Persie will be definitely rested as Wayne Rooney is still out with injury and the Dutchman needs his batteries recharged.
West Ham United – Kevin Nolan– The midfielder has been a standout performer for the newly promoted club. He is the highest scorer and is one of the first names on the team sheet. Nolan will be the key man for the Londoners if they are to unlock the defense of the Manchester United. He is exceptionally good in the air and with the opposition’s defense a bit susceptible, Nolan will be become extremely important. .
Manchester United – Tom Cleverly– The Manchester United midfielder is enjoying a fruitful season and his performances in the middle of the park alongside Carrick have been brilliant. The only thing lacking is the goals. The manager will look to rest some of his players and Cleverly won’t be one of them. He in a willing runner in midfield and he will key for the Red Devils against the London side.
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