MANCHESTER UNITED welcome West Ham to Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.Brett Curtis (@brett_curtis92) showcases his favourite fancies.
Manchester United vs West Ham | Wednesday 22nd July 2020, 18:00 | Sky Sports
Manchester United host West Ham on Wednesday evening as the Red Devils look to move into a Champions League qualification position heading into Sunday’s final day showdown at Leicester.
Ordinarily, most Man Utd fans would be in a state of depression knowing their arch-rivals Liverpool are set to finally lift the Premier League trophy for the first time only a few hours after this match finishes, especially after being outplayed by Chelsea in an FA Cup semi-final in their last fixture.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been on a fantastic run since the restart and have more to be optimistic about than perhaps any stage since Sir Alex Ferguson retired with his and United’s last title in 2013.
Indeed, having cut back an eight-point deficit to Leicester since the restart, even just a draw against West Ham will ensure a top-four place is firmly in their hands heading into that battle with Brendan Rodgers’ side on Sunday.
However, given Leicester and United’s goal differences are level, if United are smart then they will go for goals here: a three or four-goal win would mean that Leicester not only need to beat United to overhaul them, but they’d need to win by two or more goals.
After beating Watford 3-1 last Friday, West Ham are essentially safe from relegation. They’re six points clear of Aston Villa with two games left, but crucially have a +14 superior goal difference.
Even if Villa beat Arsenal on Tuesday, it would take an unprecedented, monumental collapse for West Ham to go down at this stage. It’s not happening.
With United likely to attack a West Ham side who could be in damage limitation mode, then, I like the look of Bruno Fernandes to have 2+ shots on target at evens with Betfair.
The Portuguese playmaker has managed this eight times in all competitions since joining in January, including in the 3-1 loss to Chelsea at the weekend, and will have the opportunity to take pot shots against a West Ham side who deploy a low block under David Moyes.
That tactic steers my other play. Harry Maguire is 8/11 to have Over 81 Passes with Bet365, and while it’s a high mark, I think it’s one which will land.
United’s captain easily surpassed this mark in his first four matches after the restart, and has done so ten times overall in the league this season. However, his chances of doing so again are much higher than these statistics suggest due to his opponents on Wednesday.
West Ham sit off central defenders under Moyes, only engaging the ball once it is played into midfield. I suspect they will look to use Michail Antonio or Mark Noble to nick the ball off Paul Pogba, as Southampton effectively did for their opening goal at Old Trafford last week, allowing Maguire and Victor Lindelof plenty of time and space to circulate the ball.
Indeed, West Ham have played the Big Six six times since Moyes took over, with the 12 opposing starting central defenders averaging 89.17 passes-per-game. Only David Luiz, Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte failed to reach the 82 passes mark we need Maguire to make.
It should be stressed that Laporte was replaced by John Stones on 64 minutes; combined, they made 93 passes. Moreover, in that game, Rodri made an incredible 188 passes, with Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva making 102 and 84 respectively, suggesting West Ham sat even deeper than usual, happy to passively cut off passing lanes into City’s front three.
Even Norwich defender Ben Godfrey made 88 passes in the Hammers’ recent 4-0 win at Carrow Road.
Manchester United vs West Ham – Bruno Fernandez to have 2+ shots on-target (1/1 Betfair)
Manchester United vs West Ham – Harry Maguire to have Over 81 Passes (8/11 Bet365)