The FA Cup has long since disappeared from the top of Manchester United’s list of priorities – a fact reflected by its absence from the United trophy cabinet for nearly a decade.
But, such is the strength of the current squad, that there is still a highly competitive scramble for places in the 3rd round replay against West Ham at Old Trafford tonight (kick off 20:05).
Manchester United fans can expect to see the returning Wayne Rooney on the team sheet after a few weeks out with a knee problem. Longer term absentees Nani and Anderson have also been back in full training for over a week and will expect to see some serious minutes tonight. Anderson started the season really well but fell foul another niggling injury in October. As for Nani, he’s been hamstrung for months but, now fully fit, he’ll see this as an opportunity to prove his worth to a manager who has recently backed him publicly, despite his now notoriously sporadic form.
Speaking in December, Fergie said of the Portuguese:
‘Why would I want to let him go? Obviously his people have been negotiating…about a new contract but I don’t know what stage we are at with that. But we won’t be letting him go.
‘We need a Nani. He offers something different from the other players. He’s an incredible talent, the boy’s a great talent. Unfortunately, he’s injured at the moment so we sent him over to Dubai for a break and hoping a bit of warmth will help him in his recovery. He’s not far away but he’s far enough away. I don’t think I’ll get him back until probably the middle of January.’
Other players who need minutes, from this now stupendous squad, include Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Darren Fletcher, Shnji Kagawa and Alex Buttner. It’s anyone’s guess what the starting eleven will be but (fitness allowing) here’s ours:
Lindegaard, Smalling, Evans, Jones, Buttner, Fletcher, Anderson, Kagawa, Nani, Rooney, Hernandez
West Ham have serious injury concerns ahead of a tie that they so nearly won at the first time of asking. There are question marks over the fitness of James Collins, Mark Noble, George McCartney, Joey O’Brien, and Andy Carroll. Furthermore, West Ham’s summer signing Modibo Maiga, has left for the African Cup of Nations.
Even if United play a second string side West Ham will struggle to find a way past them at Old Trafford. Accordingly, William Hill have Manchester United at 3/10 for victory within the 90. West Ham may be worth a cheeky punt way out at 9/1. Other interesting bets include Javier Hernandez to score in the 90 and United to win @ 7/4.
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