September 25, 2014

Manchester United will be looking to win over their detractors as they take on West Ham United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Louis van Gaal's Manchester United (8-4-2) are just one point off the top of the Premier League, unbeaten in six and have the best defensive record in the division - having shipped only 10 goals - but that hasn't stopped the critics from coming out in force throughout the opening four months of the season.

And it's that last point that seems to be the key.

United may be secure at the back, but their approach is perceived by many to be overly defensive and to the detriment of the club's attacking roots. A 1-1 draw with Leicester and a 2-0 win over Watford in recent weeks - either side of a goalless draw with PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League - haven't helped, but Bastian Schweinsteiger, who scored the goal against the Foxes and forced a late winner against the Hornets, believes the perception of the club's style of play is wrong.

"We try to improve in every match, but it's not easy sometimes when you play against teams who defend with ten players in their own half, and maybe a little bit deeper," said the German World Cup winner. "You have to find solutions, and maybe the right moment to accelerate.

"There are some situations where you have to be fast. But you also have to give the feeling to your teammates that everything is under control. I don't it like it when there's too much rush."

For all of Schweinsteiger's intelligent explanation, there does seem to be a problem with United's attack. Whether this is a result of the style of play or the individual displays of key attacking players in the squad is another matter entirely, but the manager of Saturday's opponents West Ham United (6-4-4) is aware United will be a tough team to beat - even in their new 'boring' guise.

"They're not conceding goals and some people say they are boring, but they are having the ball," Slaven Bilic said. "They are not a team that give you the ball and defend - you could call that kind of football sometimes boring.

"Especially at home, when the opponents are defending with numbers and are compact, you can't play very vertically. You need gaps and space behind or in between the lines of the opponent. That's hard to find. We can call it controlled football, we can call it patient football, but it is so far very effective because they are sitting pretty in the table."

Bilic's side are six points behind United, but no wins in the last four has undermined the Hammers' strong start to the season.

Injuries haven't helped the east London club, and this week key striker Diafra Sakho has also been ruled out for two months with a thigh injury, joining fellow front-man Enner Valencia and midfield playmaker Dimitri Payet on the sidelines.

Manchester United have a number of injury concerns of their own. Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw are long-term absentees, but Phil Jones, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard all face fitness tests after being unable to complete full midweek training.

Wayne Rooney, however, has been ruled out of this match and likely United's final Champions League group match against Wolfsburg due to an ankle injury, delaying his 500th appearance for the storied side. Marcus Rojo will also not play this weekend due to a dislocated left shoulder suffered in practice this week.

Manchester United's record overall against West Ham is impressive. They are unbeaten in 13 head-to-heads and have won seven straight over the Hammers at Old Trafford.

West Ham will be hoping their impressive away form will be enough to help them end that run of defeats. A win for the Londoners would make them the first club in Premier League history to beat Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United away from home in the same season.

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