After 112 wonderful years, West Ham United play their final match at Upton Park on Tuesday as they entertain Champions League hopefuls Manchester United on an evening that promises to be tinged with emotion.
There will be real determination among the Londoners to give their home the farewell it deserves before they move to the Olympic Stadium for next season, so a repeat of the performance against Swansea City on Saturday will certainly not be on the agenda. It was a game where they lacked energy and intensity, while as a team the defending was as poor as it has been for some time, heralding a first defeat in 11 Premier League matches for Slaven Bilic’s side.
That result put paid to any realistic hopes that they could themselves make it into the top four, so now the attention will turn to making absolutely sure of a European place for next season as pressure still comes from the sides just behind them in the table. There will be a tremendous atmosphere for this one as the Hammers will look to avenge their FA Cup quarter-final loss to the same opponents, who they have not beaten at home since 2007. It would be the perfect night to end that particular sequence.
Despite the many problems they have had right over the course of the season, a Champions League place is not yet beyond Man Utd, so this is a critical game for them as they look to retain those ambitions. Performance levels on the whole have certainly been much better of late, although the game at Norwich City at the weekend was an occasion where they successfully ground out three points in a none-too-attractive manner, having not been helped by the absense of key players.
The injury to Anthony Martial in the warm-up as well as the decision to rest young striker Marcus Rashford gave captain Wayne Rooney the chance to reassume the role of a central striker, and he was instrumental in creating the game’s only goal for Juan Mata. For Rooney it is now about staying fit and getting sharp as he knows he faces a battle on his hands to get into the England starting line-up for Euro 2016, so he will show no shortage of motivation on a ground where he once scored a memorable goal from almost on the halfway line.
Darren Randolph is likely to remain in goal for West Ham in place of the injured Adrian, while Bilic could make changes following the heavy defeat to Swansea.
Martial is a doubt for Man Utd along with Matteo Darmian, who was forced off after 12 minutes at Norwich. Luke Shaw and Bastian Schweinsteiger are still missing.
Last Meeting: It was late disappointment for West Ham in February 2015 as a last-gasp equaliser from Daley Blind denied them all three points in an entertaining clash. Cheikhou Kouyate put the home side in front on the volley with half-time approaching and they had other chances to wrap the game up, but Blind intervened with a first time shot in second half stoppage time, before Luke Shaw was sent off.