Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Midweek Preview: 29th March 2006

Manchester United vs West Ham United

"Tonight will be Man Utd's 7th win on the trot..." - Sheena, 29th March 2006

Ahhhh... West Ham. It's one of my favourite London clubs, mainly because of its famed youth system that has produced so many brilliant players like Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick, and in my book, any club that concentrates on homegrown talent instead of merely importing foreigners is a club that warrants respect.

However, despite the number and kind of players they produce, their best players are always snapped up by other clubs, which kind of consigns West Ham to the status of mediocrity.

This season, though, they have been the "other" surprise package, the one that quietly but steadily climbed up the table to safety and even a possible UEFA Cup slot while Wigan had been grabbing all the "fairytale" headlines. Wigan's achievements have been fantastic for a newly-promoted club, but none more so than West Ham. In fact, West Ham are only 1 point behind Wigan, but with a game in hand.

To be fair, while most people expected Wigan to go straight down (which they won't now), they actually foresaw that of the 3 newly-promoted teams, West Ham would be most likely to stay up - thus Wigan's hogging of headlines. This public confidence in West Ham is due in great part to manager Alan Pardew, who after just one season in charge in the Coca-Cola Championship, took the team up to the Premiership. Furthermore, working on a shoestring budget and concentrating mostly on developing homegrown players, he has moulded a cohesive, well-balanced team that shows great promise for now, the future, as well as for England in future World Cups and Euro's.

Perhaps the biggest testimony to the club's youth system and the manager's ability is the emergence of Marlon Harewood. Though he hardly attracts attention the way Wayne Rooney does, the 26-year-old is a talent in his own right. Without anyone really noticing, he has scored 14 goals in the Premiership, only 5 behind top scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy. Pacy, a menace in the air, and a good eye for goal, many have been clamouring for him to be included in the last England striking spot up for grabs. The club's other strikers, Dean Ashton has been a good buy from Norwich, as he adds a physical dimension to West Ham, and at 40, Teddy Sheringham is still as deadly as ever.

The focal point of tonight's match though, will be on the defensive battle between the Ferdinand brothers. Anton Ferdinand has the unenviable task of trying to stop Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha, while Rio Ferdinand will have to be on his toes to cut out Harewood and Ashton. Which brother will emerge victorious in marshalling their defence?

For me, it will probably be Rio. Man Utd have really picked up form in the last few weeks and it will take a truly catastrophic performance from the team, or a spellbinding one by West Ham, to halt them. Somehow I can't see West Ham, for all the talent they have, trampling Man Utd at Old Trafford. Man Utd should be able to win this comfortably by a single goal, possibly 2.

Player to watch (West Ham): Marlon Harewood. Rio has to forget about all the talk of the on-pitch "sibling rivalry" and really try to shut him down. Pace-wise, if Wes Brown isn't playing, only Rio can match Harewood, thus the onus will be on him to stop him.

Player to watch (Man Utd): Ruud van Nistelrooy, if he plays, and it is very likely he will. Having been left out for 5 matches, he will be hungry and raring to go. He will also be desperate to claim his starting berth back, and his name on the scoresheet should give Sir Alex pause.

Disclaimer: The above views are purely my own two-cents' worth. In other words, I cannot and will not guarantee that my predictions are accurate. If you want to bet on the game, do so at your own risk. Also, please bet responsibly and within your means regardless of how "sure thing" that game may appear to be. As the old saying goes, "The Ball Is Round". Good luck.


At 9:29 PM, March 29, 2006, Blogger JayWalk said...

I don't have a good feeling about this and neither do the bookies who gave West Ham to makan 1.5 balls and the decimal odds to beat it.

Looks like either a narrow win or ManUtd stepping on the banana skin.

I am keeping my moolah in my pocket today.

At 10:45 PM, March 29, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...

It's amazing that Sheringham is still playing at the game's highest levels at the age of 40. In my 20 odd years of watching football, the only other players I can remember playng at that age are Neville Southall and Peter Shilton. And both of them are goalkeepers!

I also feel tonight's match is a potential banana skin. Man Utd will do very well to win. Any sort of victory will do.

At 1:21 PM, March 30, 2006, Blogger Acey Deucey said...


Chelsea's lead cut to 9.

Too bad the match against them is the 2nd last match of the season. If it was earlier, Man Utd would have a chance to beat them, cut the lead to 6 and place more pressure on them.


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