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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Manchester United set to show their ruthless streak

New-look Hammers face a tricky return to Old Trafford

Romelu Lukaku celebrates with his new Manchester United teammates during preseason
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Premier League
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Manchester United and West Ham have addressed very specific failings with their summer recruitment and a clash at Old Trafford offers the opportunity for both dugouts to assess the success of their off-season spending.

Jose Mourinho's Red Devils stumbled their way to a sixth-place finish last term and while a trophy double placated fans and granted a return to the Champions League, the Portuguese manager would have been well aware that the silverware papered over some sizeable cracks.

Manchester United's failure to win so many games which they dominated was an obvious problem area, as a league-high tally of ten home draws took in points dropped against the likes of Hull, Burnley, Swansea, Stoke, Bournemouth and their first league opponents West Ham.

It is inaccurate to claim the Red Devils were denied only by bad luck and inspired goalkeeping - although that was largely the case in the game against West Ham - as United often had themselves to blame for being camped in the opposition half without possessing the movement and guile to craft clear-cut opportunities.

The capture of powerhouse striker Romelu Lukaku is intended to cure that ailment, with his pace and directness offering a marked change in style to the static finesse of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It is not just goals demanded of the new number nine as his industry will be expected to inspire doubt and disorder among opposition defences.  

West Ham arrive with a few improvements of their own, with Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez brought in to supply a clinical edge, while the loan signing of goalkeeper Joe Hart is intended to shore up a supposed problem position.

However, Hart would be setting the bar high in trying to improve on Darren Randolph's man-of-the-match performance at Old Trafford last November and the likely absence of West Ham's 2016-17 player of the season, Michail Antonio, hugely undermines the visitors' counterattacking threat. 

Throw in the fact that talisman Dimitri Payet has long since departed and there is an argument to say that, for all the signings and future promise, West Ham arrive at Old Trafford with a weaker-looking line-up than in 2016. And this time they may find their hosts in more ruthless mood.

Draw-Manchester United double result
1pt 16-5 Betway

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Dan Sait is the Football Editor of the Racing & Football Outlook - out every Tuesday. Follow them at @rfoutlook and @DanSait

Romelu Lukaku's pace and directness offers a marked change in style to the static finesse of Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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