Manchester United vs West Ham United predictions, preview and betting tips: United to edge out Hammers in tight affair

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Jose Mourinho is under big pressure to deliver the Premier League title this season, having performed very poorly domestically last year. Manchester United finished sixth, but made up for that to a degree by winning the League Cup and the Europa League, with the latter giving them qualification for the Champions League.

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Whilst that passed as phase one in the Mourinho rebuilding project, winning the title, or at least putting up a long-term challenge, is the minimum expectation. Games like West Ham at home were their downfall last season, because they struggled so much with breaking teams they should be beating down at Old Trafford.

In order to turn a hefty number of draws into wins, Mourinho signed Romelu Lukaku from Everton, scorer of 24 goals last season. But West Ham have made some extremely good signings this summer, including Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, so they will provide a tough test and Mourinho may not have it all his own way.

The pressure was often there last season, the Red Devils were not shot shy and kept good possession, but without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they struggled to put the ball in the net. The fact Lukaku is replacing, rather than adding to, the Swede’s goals, the question marks about others chipping in remain. There certainly is more to come from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, but the fact there is little guarantee they will shine is why our betting tips are all closely fought encounters.

But Slaven Bilic has strengthened exceptionally, bringing not only Hart, but Stoke winger and chief creator Marko Arnautovic and former Old Trafford hero Javier Hernandez from Bayer Leverkusen. The Mexican is one of the best goal-poachers in Europe and someone Mourinho could have done with at times last season. Backing him to score at any time would be a good bet, and not just because that is often what happens in this situation.

Another new signing for Mourinho’s men, Victor Lindelof, has looked nervy in pre-season, particularly when put under pressure, and Hernandez could have a field day playing on the shoulder with the Hammers set up to counter attack.
Key battle: Henrikh Mkhitaryan vs Mark Noble

What will be interesting this season is what will happen to Mkhitaryan, especially if Mourinho enters the transfer market for another winger. The Armenian often started out on the left, with Juan Mata on the right, and both were given license to cut inside. This season, though, he may start in the number ten role, but either way he will be the main responsibility of West Ham stalwart Mark Noble.

The Hammers academy graduate does an underrated job in the midfield, protecting the defence from penetration. Mlhitaryan is not one for picking a pass, he is more likely to look to pull Noble out of position either to get past him, or create space for the powerful runs of Paul Pogba, who will be given more freedom by the summer arrival of Nemanja Matic. As the main creative force for the hosts, Mkhitaryan is the man it is most important to monitor.

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