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So, the Premier League is back… That’s right! After a long summer and gruelling pre-season, top-flight football makes a welcome return to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon as United face West Ham in the final match of the opening weekend. After the disappointment of losing to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in midweek, the Reds will be desperate to bounce back immediately by making a winning start in the league, just as we did against Bournemouth last season.
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How can I watch it? The game kicks off at 16:00 BST and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK. Subscribers of MUTV on Sky or Virgin Media, the club’s MUTV app or online at mutv.com will be able to watch build-up from 15:00 BST in Matchday Live and listen to radio commentary of the game before watching it in full from midnight. You can also keep up with all the action as it happens via ManUtd.com’s live match blog and by following our official Twitter account @ManUtd.
What happened last time out? Our first competitive game of 2017/18 saw the Reds travel to Macedonia for the prestigious UEFA Super Cup against Champions League holders Real Madrid. Goals from Casemiro and Isco put Real in the driving seat and, although Romelu Lukaku offered United a lifeline with his first official goal for the club, the European champions held on for a 2-1 victory in the sweltering heat in Skopje.
Any team news for me? Summer signings Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku could make their Premier League debuts for the Reds, while Jose Mourinho faces a positive selection headache in defence with Eric Bailly and Phil Jones available again after sitting out the Super Cup through suspension. The boss is expected to give a further announcement on his squad during his pre-match press conference on Friday. Meanwhile, West Ham could welcome back Aaron Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini after injury, but Sofiane Feghouli, Cheikhou Kouyate, Diafra Sakho, Andy Carroll and Michail Antonio are expected to remain sidelined.
How have both sides done in pre-season? The Reds enjoyed a successful Tour 2017, presented by Aon, with six wins from seven games, having seen off LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Manchester City and Real Madrid before finishing the American leg with a narrow defeat by Barcelona. United then returned to Europe with a 3-0 win over Valerenga in Oslo before beating Sampdoria 2-1 in Dublin. Meanwhile, the Hammers endured an indifferent summer. A brief trip to Austria saw Slaven Bilic’s side held to a goalless draw by Sturm Graz II and edge past Fulham 2-1 in Graz. They then travelled to Germany for a two-legged tie in the Betway Cup, losing 3-2 on aggregate, and drew 3-3 against Altona 93. Preparations were then rounded off last Friday in Iceland with a 3-0 defeat against Manchester City.
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How did we fare against the Hammers last term? United locked horns with West Ham on three occasions in 2016/17 and were unbeaten in all three games. The Reds had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the league at Old Trafford in November, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic cancelled out Diafra Sakho’s early opener, but went one better three days later, with Ibrahimovic and Anthony Martial each scoring twice in a 4-1 win in the EFL Cup. Goals from Juan Mata and Ibrahimovic then gave United a 2-0 victory in our first ever trip to the London Stadium at the start of the calendar year.
How did West Ham do last season? 2016/17 was challenging season for the East London outfit which began in July in the Europa League, with the Hammers benefitting from United’s Emirates FA Cup triumph to qualify, but their journey ended at the second hurdle with a play-off defeat by Romanian side Astra. After one win from the first six league games, form improved with five wins from seven games during winter helping their cause. A torrid run of five successive defeats in the spring had alarm bells ringing but a notable success against Tottenham and a win at Burnley on the final day ensured an 11th-place finish for Bilic’s troops.
The return of a familiar face… The Theatre of Dreams will welcome back a popular former Red on Sunday as Javier Hernandez looks set to make his West Ham debut against his old club. The Mexican striker netted 59 goals in 157 appearances for United in five seasons at Old Trafford (one season was on loan at Real Madrid) and made the move to London for £16 million last month, after two years in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen. A fans’ favourite during his time at the club, Chicarito is sure to receive a warm reception from United supporters upon his anticipated return.
Did you know? Romelu Lukaku boasts a formidable record of scoring against the Hammers so far in his career. The Belgian striker scored in his first nine appearances for Everton against the east London club, with his goals directly earning nine Premier League points, and he also has four assists to his name against the Hammers. Lukaku will no doubt fancy his chances of finding the net again on his Premier League debut for the Reds against his favourite opponents.
Who’s the referee? Martin Atkinson will take charge of Sunday’s game at Old Trafford. The 46-year-old FIFA official from West Yorkshire presided over four United matches in 2016/17 and will oversee his first since sending off Marouane Fellaini in April’s derby draw against Manchester City. He will be assisted by linesmen Stephen Child and Adam Nunn, with Neil Swarbrick on fourth official duties.
Rivals watch: The full programme on the opening weekend of the Premier League season is as follows…
Friday 11 August
Arsenal v Leicester City 19:45
Saturday 12 August (15:00 BST unless stated)
Watford v Liverpool 12:30
Chelsea v Burnley
Crystal Palace v Huddersfield Town
Everton v Stoke City
Southampton v Swansea City
West Bromwich Albion v Bournemouth
Brighton v Manchester City 17:30
Sunday 13 August
Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur 13:30
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