In a season they may not have dazzled but dominated, top of the table Manchester United require just seven points from their remaining six matches to reclaim the Premier League title from neighbours Manchester City.
United put last week’s disappointing home defeat to their local rivals firmly behind them as they got back to winning ways with a 2-0 victory at Stoke City on Sunday afternoon, when Robin van Persie scored from the spot to end a run of 10 games without a goal.
That result saw the Red Devils stretch their lead at the top to 15 points ahead of their trip to Upton Park this evening, where they face a West Ham United side whose top-flight survival is all but secure. The Hammers sit just below mid-table, seven points clear of the relegation places.
This will be the fourth meeting between the sides this season as their FA Cup third round tie went to a replay after a late Van Persie goal levelled the scores at 2-2 in east London, with the return ending 1-0 to the Reds – the same scoreline as their league match at Old Trafford in November.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have been priced as odds-on favourites to secure a league double over the Hammers at 57/100, with the draw at 3/1, while Sam Allardyce’s men can be backed at 9/2 to pick up their first league win over United since 2007.
Since then, the champions-elect have obtained maximum points from the eight Premier League encounters between the clubs, seven of which saw the Hammers fail to find the net. They had two penalties to thank for the one they did.
Only three sides have scored fewer than West Ham this campaign, with Kevin Nolan and on-loan Liverpool frontman Andy Carroll leading the way on six goals each, so it is certainly worth considering backing against a home goal this evening at a tempting 31/20.
Only City and Liverpool can boast more clean sheets than Ferguson’s side this term, who have recorded 12 in total, seven of which have come in their last eight matches and four of those away from home, and they look a very good price at 7/4 to win to nil.
One of the main factors for Manchester United’s dominance has been their form in front of goal: they are averaging just over two goals a game having found the net on 73 occasions, with 20 of those coming from Van Persie, the league’s second top scorer.
They have managed to score at least three times in four of the last five league meetings with the Hammers, the previous encounter on this ground seeing them emerge 4-2 victors, and they are 2/1 to score three or more this evening.
In the goalscorers market it’s hard to look beyond RVP, who has six goals in 10 appearances against the Hammers in all competitions, four of those coming in his last three games, and the Dutchman is 7/2 to open proceedings or evens to score anytime.
Strike partner Wayne Rooney also enjoys a goal against the Londoners, notching 10 in 13 matches in all competitions, including the winner in the FA Cup in January. With a hat-trick on his last visit to Upton Park, he is 9/2 to score first or 13/10 anytime.
With the possibility of surpassing Chelsea’s record Premier League points haul of 95 set in 2005, which would require them to win all six of their remaining games, don’t expect United to let up at the tail end of the campaign despite their healthy lead, and this should start with a victory to nil this evening at 7/4.