• West Ham v Manchester United, Premier League preview

United 'pretty scary' this season, says Allardyce

ESPN staff
April 17, 2013
Manchester United could move a step closer to the title against West Ham © PA Photos

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce feels it has been "pretty scary'' to see Manchester United's dominance this season.

The Red Devils could stretch their lead at the top of the table to 18 points with victory at Upton Park, which would leave them within touching distance of the title once again.

Allardyce believes the way Sir Alex Ferguson's men have gone about wrestling back superiority from rivals Manchester City, spearheaded by the goals of £24 million striker Robin van Persie, has been awe inspiring.

"I think you have to say the (United) team is as good as it has ever been because nobody normally wins the title so easily and by so big a margin, or has this much of a margin at this stage of the season,'' said Allardyce.

"It is pretty scary what total they might actually finish with.

"Manchester United have been outstanding and it has been about how their squad rotation has been Sir Alex's masterpiece as usual, about playing the right team at the right time.

"I suppose you could say that because they got knocked out of the Champions League a little sooner than usual and because they got knocked out of the FA Cup and Capital One Cup, it has given them the strength and energy to be what they are in the Premier League this year.

"They have not had the normal focus on three or four competitions almost to the end, the focus has come on the Premier League and they have just breezed it.

"They have just gone 'bang' and everyone else can't get near them.''

The Red Devils require just seven more points to seal a 20th league title, but Patrice Evra has no intention of following Robin van Persie's example by leaping into Ferguson when he scores his next Manchester United goal.

Van Persie's instinctive reaction to ending a 10-game goal drought at Stoke on Sunday was to race to the away dugout and jump into the arms of the man who paid Arsenal £24m to bring him to Old Trafford in the summer.

A clearly delighted Ferguson was left spluttering: "He nearly killed me, he forgets that I'm 71.''

The Dutchman's reaction has created a great deal of hilarity in the United dressing room too, where it has been one of the chief topics of conversation.

Not that Evra dare a repeat.

"No chance. Never,'' said the France defender. "Maybe I will do it with my team-mates. But not with the gaffer. He is older.

"Imagine I go in too strong against him. He could fall, then he might sack me. I will never do that.''

Evra could barely keep a straight face as he delivered his assessment of Van Persie's reaction.

"Robin has had a lot of stick from us,'' said Evra. "It was nice. I could see a lot of love and emotion.

"It is the first time we saw that. Robin can tell you, for two or three days we have been getting at him. It is good to see love like that on the pitch sometimes.``

West Ham defender James Tomkins (calf) is a doubt for the clash at Upton Park, while Winston Reid (hip) and George McCartney (knee) are also struggling for fitness, so Emanuel Pogatetz is ready to stand in.

Midfielder Mark Noble (shoulder) is close to a return, but Joe Cole (hamstring) remains a doubt.

Sir Alex Ferguson has reported no new injury concerns for Manchester United.

Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans, Rafael, Danny Welbeck and Nani are all hoping for a recall but Ashley Young (ankle) and Paul Scholes (knee) remain sidelined.

West Ham player to watch: With his future being openly speculated about in the press, Andy Carroll has used a regular run of games in recent weeks to get himself on the scoresheet with a pleasing frequency. A goal and good performance against the league's title winners-elect might just revise the thinking of the Hammers, Liverpool - and even Newcastle? - about his long-term future.

Manchester United player to watch: Having ended his goal drought against Stoke (and celebrated it in humourous fashion), surely Sir Alex will expect Robin van Persie to be on the scoresheet once again in this one.

Betting: We fancy Manchester United to be tested in the early exchanges, but ease away with this one by full-time. The visitors to be 1-0 ahead at half-time, but 3-1 up at the final whistle is 35/1 with bet365

Prediction: 1-3

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