Manchester United v West Ham United: match preview

Preview Percy has recovered from the shock of seeing us score four in the league against a team not called Norwich in time to have a look at Wednesday’s trip to Old Trafford. Unfortunately.

Next up, as is now traditional at this time of the year we journey up to Salford where Manchester United will be our hosts. Kick-off is at 7:45pm with TV coverage on ITV so even those of you without space tv should be able to get a look in. And, as an added bonus, there will be no Coronation Street that night, much to the relief of intelligent human beings up and down the country. The tie will be settled on the night with extra time and penalties available should the scores be level at the appropriate time.

So Manchester United then. They are in a bit of form which will please the current owners of the conglomerate as the share price creeps up. The leading contenders come from Qatar, who, having successfully (not) convinced the rest of the world that thousands of deaths are a small price to pay to deflect attention from human rights abuses, have decided to go for broke and try for world approval by buying a club that is a byword for honesty and integrity (also not).

A far cry from the dealings of the Edwards family all those years ago. Or maybe not. It will be interesting to see how that goes down with the UAE who pretty much own Greater Manchester.

On the pitch, they have clicked into form. A dreadful start to the season saw them lose at home to Brighton and away at Brentford, after which it seemed to dawn on them that Ronaldo might be a bit more trouble than he was worth. He was used sparingly in the league with six of his ten appearances coming off the bench.

He then turned up on a tv interview with Piers Morgan, earning a draw in the "who is more arrogant and irritating" vote, taking time to slag of his employers to the extent that he was "let go" by the club, with a size nine up his backside. Ronaldo’s footballing priorities were laid bare by his acceptance of a (reported) £175m contract to play in Saudi Arabia, though it isn’t recorded whether or not he waxed lyrical over his childhood memories of following Al Nassr.

They’ve lost but the four times in the league this season – away defeats at Villa and Arsenal being added to those in the first couple of weeks in the season. European qualification was assured at the weekend with their 2-0 defeat of Newcastle in the League Cup Final, though sitting as they do in third place, the precise flavour of their continental journey has yet to be decided.

Daisy informs me that they were active in the loan market in January. Goalkeeping cover was brought in from Crystal Palace in the form of Jack Butland, with them having sent Newcastle ‘keeper Martin Dubravka back to Tyneside.

Interestingly, Dubravka might get one of the spare winners’ medals from Sunday’s League Cup win, despite being on the losing side (although cup-tied). Apparently the winning side get 30 medals to distribute amongst the squad and they used 27 players in the run. Makes you nostalgic for the days when you had to play or be sub in the final to earn a medal. John Terry has much to answer for. In so many ways.

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Wout Weghorst (19 Dutch caps) arrived on loan from Burnley. I say Burnley, the player was in fact plying his trade over in Turkey with Besiktas. Besiktas were a bit cheesed off by all accounts, though their cheesed-offedness was alleviated somewhat by Burnley splitting the loan fee with them.

The final loan signing was much-capped Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer whose surname always makes me want to sing “one for the money” when it’s mentioned on the radio. I don’t know why this surprised me but he is apparently the first Austrian player to represent Manchester United.

On the injury front they will be without Van De Beek and Eriksen who have long-term issues. There are doubts over Shaw, Fred and Martial whilst the situation regarding the now-acquitted Mason Greenwood remains unclear – with the club continuing to weigh up its options.

And so to the Wild And Wacky World of Association Football. And there was at last some good news for Spurs fans as it was announced that a karting track is to be built under their stadium. It will be nice to see the place used for something useful. Look out for the press officer announcement to the effect that Harry Kane has broken the lap record.

Meanwhile there’s been trouble at le mill across the channel where Noel Le Great, president of the French FA, has resigned after a damning report into the running of the FFF said that his "behavioural excesses" were "incompatible with the carrying out of his functions". Only in French. The report followed numerous accusations of bullying and sexual harassment which the Federation dismissed as "exaggerated bad mouthing". Good to see them taking things so seriously.

Let’s move on to us. Well what a difference a bit of confidence makes eh? Apparently the players held a meeting or two to sort a few things out. It seems to have worked.

We dominated this one – though with the first goal not coming until after the 70th minute those of us of a certain age had memories of all to many matches that ended up 1-0 to our opponents with them scoring from their only chance of the match. Thankfully we have, in Danny Ings, a finisher. His first goal was a superbly improvised finish and his second was the sort of ugly finish that all good strikers manage when required. Only a first half attack of the Iain Dowie 50p Head Virus saw Ings finish up without the hat-trick he probably deserved.

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As for Forest, their match could be summed up by one spell of possession they had in the first half. With the ball deep in our territory on their right hand side, the player in possession looked up and was greeted by the sight of five or six team-mates all pointing back to the halfway line as a suggested destination for the ball, rather than anyone in an advanced position.

No wonder most of them left at 2-0 – though I suppose they might have wanted a good spot for the Abba thing which an extraordinary number of them seemed to head for at full time. Imagine that – losing 4-0 and then having to endure 2 hours of Abba. Still musical taste doesn’t seem to be a priority up there with their main song being based on the worst thing Paul McCartney ever wrote – and yes I’m including the Frog Chorus in that.

On the injury front Fabianski is going to miss this one – he’ll be out for a good while yet having fractured eye socket from a Felipe challenge that I’m not entirely convinced was accidental – he has got previous in that respect.

Coufal has been carrying a heel injury, possibly as a continuation of the problems he suffered from that disgusting challenge on him up at Leeds. Zouma and Cornet are back in training though I wouldn’t expect either to be risked.

Prediction? Well cup ties being what they are these days you never know what sort of team will be put out by either side so making a judgement call is difficult. We will of course have the traditional 12 men to play with referees being reluctant to give any decision that might anger the home side – that may have lessened since tax-dodger Ferguson retired but getting the rub of the green up there is dependent on getting an honest and competent set of match officials, qualities that have never been uppermost in PGMOL’s recruitment priorities.

Bearing that in mind – and factoring in the possibility that this may be lower down the list of priorities for the management than perhaps it ought to be I can see us losing out albeit in a tighter match than many might think. So the £2.50 that I was going to spend on an officially licensed Ronaldo Saudi Player Of The Month February 2023 mug, will instead be spent on a wager at Winston The Turf Accountant’s on a home win – call it 2-1 AET please Mr Winstone.

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When last we met at the Theatre Of Tacky Marketing Slogans: Lost 1-0 (Premier League October 2022)

We spent the first half of the match giving them far too much respect. Then when we were 1-0 down we decided to join the party and only a string of saves from De Gea denied us a point or even perhaps three.

Referee/VAR Michael Salisbury/Simon Hooper
Salisbury was the couch potato when we played Fulham back in October being blamed for not overturning an obvious penalty and for not disallowing two goals that were perfectly good as per the laws of the game. Talking of VAR it seems that Swarbrick – the man in charge of so many cock-ups is “retiring” at the end of the season. All very well looking at the low-hanging fruit Mr Webb – now how about dealing with some of the so-called “untouchables”.

Danger Man: Marcus Rashford

"Dinner Lady" is in a rich vein of form at the moment which is always a bad sign.

Percy & Daisy’s Poser-Type Thing

Last week we mentioned the fact that post-match photographs of Forest’s 1898 FA Cup win show the Forest players wearing their opponents’ shirts. We asked you: Why?

Well done to Mrs Wilhelmina Fox-Talbot of Rochford who correctly pointed out that the photographers of the day were concerned that the Forest shirts wouldn’t show up when the film was developed, hence the use of Derby’s kit.

This week we look at Manchester United and ask which one of these crimes have Man Utd or those connected with them not been involved in over the years:

• Match fixing;
• Illegal share dealing;
• Bribery of council officials;
• Dubious tax avoidance.

Good luck everyone!

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