On the back of an opening Europa League victory at home to FC Astana, Manchester United turn their attention back to the matters of the Premier League travel down south to face West Ham United.
Life on the road hasn’t treated Red Devils well in 2019 - United haven’t won an away game since the Champions League victory at the Parc des Princes over Paris Saint-Germain. That was in March. For a Premier League win, you have to go back even further, to the end of February with three points taken from Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
West Ham - sitting on the same points (8) as United after five games - will likely be a tough test; they have lost only once and won two of their last four Premier League home game against Manchester United - a better record than the previous 19 welcomes.
Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini has faced Manchester United 12 times in his managerial career, winning a third of the meetings and suffering defeat just three times, the last coming in West Ham’s visit to Old Trafford in April. Pellegrini is an obstacle for many a Manchester United manager, having managed to win a Premier League fixture against three different United managers - David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
A triumph over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this weekend will mean he has the privilege of becoming the first-ever boss to defeat four different United gaffers in the EPL.
Since being appointed West Ham manager in May 2018, taking over from David Moyes, the Chilean has been handed unrivalled resources compared to his predecessors, with £173.85million spent. Four of the club’s five most expensive acquisitions have arrived in that 18-month period. In two consecutive summer transfer windows, West Ham have broken the bank to make a record purchase, forwards Felipe Anderson and, most recently, the £40m Sébastien Haller, a sensation last season at Eintracht Frankfurt. Former United striker Javier Hernandez was offloaded in the summer to Sevilla, and Andy Carroll returned to his former club Newcastle United after being released, creating a more dynamic, certainly more youthful front-line.
The squad are in good spirits ahead of Sunday's clash 🏃♂️☀️
Another costly summer signing, Pablo Fornals, adds additional threat in the hole behind Haller, battling for a starting spot with the resurgent Manuel Lanzini. Andriy Yarmolenko - another expensive purchase in their most prolific summer of spending in 2018 - can be considered a brand new signing on the right, having been ruled out for the majority of the previous campaign after an Achilles injury in October.
West Ham have spent £268.37m since summer 2016. Man Utd meanwhile, have spent £507.53m during that time, £212.53m of that while Pellegrini has been in East London (‘only’ the £38.68 million more).
Mourinho’s United saw three strikers arrive across three transfer windows - Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku, and Alexis Sanchez. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is instead now opting to place his faith in youth - Lukaku and Sanchez were both allowed moves to Internazionale in the off-season - and hone the talents of the Manchester United academy.
United’s Wythenshawe lad Marcus Rashford has been directly involved in four goals in 351 minutes of EPL action against West Ham (88 mins per goal involvement), and his three assists against the Irons are more than he’s managed against any other side.
Bradford-born academy graduate Mason Greenwood has handed a mid-week start up-top against Astana and became United's youngest scorer in Europe and the first player born in the 2000s to score for the club. The 17-year-old is starting to stake his claim for a regular berth spearheading Solskjaer’s attack.
West Ham have gained 48 points from their last 30 Premier League matches, better than any side outside the ‘Big Six’ (of United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal).
What is most curious about the meeting with Manchester United this Sunday is in it presenting an opportunity to observe two sides presenting a plethora of attractive attacking options - with West Ham’s uniquely the more costly - and who might not be complete strangers in the table come the end of the season.