Man Utd v West Ham: Joe Hart tasked with thwarting Hammers tormentor-in-chief Romelu Lukaku


The Premier League is back and with it comes yet another year of mammoth expectations at Old Trafford. Manchester United host West Ham on the opening weekend, but which team do the stats suggest with fare best?

 

West Ham have lost 10 opening day fixtures in the Premier League, more than any other side

The Hammers often start poorly in the Premier League, but things have picked up in recent years. They’ve won three of their last five opening day games in the top flight, beating Aston Villa in 2012, Cardiff City in 2013 and, most impressively, Arsenal at the Emirates in 2015. Unfortunately for West Ham, they’re up against the Premier League’s joint-best starters this time around. Manchester United have won 16 opening day fixtures in the Premier League - only Chelsea can match that figure. On top of that, Jose Mourinho has won seven of his eight season-openers in England.

 

Man Utd are unbeaten in their last nine league meetings with West Ham at Old Trafford

The last two Premier League encounters between the sides at Old Trafford have finished level: a goalless draw in 2014/15 was followed by a 1-1 draw last season. Prior to that, Manchester United won seven successive home league games against West Ham. The Red Devils lost only once at Old Trafford in the Premier League last term. If they are to push for the title this time, they will need to replicate last season’s rearguard home form. That shouldn’t be a problem on Sundays, a day on which Mourinho has never lost a home match in any competition (112 games).



The points have been shared in three of the last five Premier League encounters between the sides

Manchester United may have been hard to beat at Old Trafford last season, but they also struggled to break down opponents. They drew ten times at home in the Premier League in 2016/17, more than any other side (Manchester City second with seven). West Ham will be hoping to get under the skin of Mourinho on Sunday, just as they did in this exact fixture last term. The Manchester United manager was sent to the stands during the 1-1 draw in October last year - an early indication of the frustration that would hang over Old Trafford for the entire campaign. The hosts need to turn those draws into wins this year, and a victory on the opening weekend would help tremendously. 

 

Joe Hart could become the first visiting goalkeeper to keep three Premier League clean sheets at Old Trafford

Joe Hart has foiled Manchester United twice in the past at Old Trafford, keeping Premier League clean sheets for Manchester City in March 2014 and October 2015. The 27-year old withstood a topsy-turvy campaign for Torino in Serie A last term, keeping five clean sheets but conceding three or more goals on nine separate occasions. Despite his inconsistent form, Hart remains England’s first-choice goalkeeper. An impressive year at West Ham could see him back in Pep Guardiola’s good books - another clean sheet at Old Trafford would be the perfect start.

 

Romelu Lukaku has scored in seven of his last eight Premier League appearances against West Ham

Slaven Bilic won’t be thanking the fixture computer for pitting West Ham against one of their biggest tormentors on the opening weekend. Romelu Lukaku scored exactly once in each of his first seven Premier League appearances for Everton against the Hammers. He finally drew a blank in Everton’s goalless draw at the Olympic Stadium last season, but the Belgian will be eager to get off the mark early for his new employers. Another man with a motive is Javier Hernandez. West Ham’s new signing scored 37 goals in 103 Premier League appearances for Manchester United. Will the Mexican remind the Old Trafford faithful of his goalscoring credentials?