The Chalkboard: Wide play will be key for Man United in crucial West Ham clash

Since sending French champions Paris Saint-Germain flying out of the UEFA Champions League, Manchester United have just one win in five and are well and truly in a slump under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, there’s one key area they can exploit to return to form against West Ham United on Saturday evening.

United’s recent downfall

The latest disappointing result in this torrid five-match streak arrived for the Red Devils on Wednesday night, the Champions League round-of-16 first-leg defeat to Barcelona.

On that night, United’s main downfall was largely attributed by fans as being their wing-backs and the system that allowed those players to operate in those roles.

On the right side was club captain Ashley Young and he was fiercely hounded on social media post-match for his questionable performance against the high quality of the Spanish champions.

Meanwhile, despite not doing too badly in an unfamiliar role, Diogo Dalot on the other flank missed a huge chance that could have changed the whole course of the match in the first half.

However, as tempting as it may be for Solskjaer to change things up in this department for Saturday evening’s visit of Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham to Old Trafford he must stick to his guns with the wing-backs.

The secret to smashing the Hammers – their big weakness

By giving his side as much width as possible in using wing-backs once more, the new permanent boss in Manchester would be exploiting the Irons’ biggest defensive weakness and utilising the secret to smashing the Hammers – the wide areas.

Pellegrini has rotated his full-backs constantly this season and just as it started to look like a stable partnership of Aaron Cresswell on the left and Ryan Fredericks on the right was forming, they’ve both entered a run of poor form.

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Waiting in the wings to replace either of them after sub-par displays at Chelsea last Monday night are Pablo Zabaleta and Arthur Masuaku who are even weaker options.

The fun and games that Eden Hazard was able to enjoy against Fredericks at Stamford Bridge would inspire the young Dalot. The opposing flank represents a bigger conundrum with Young and Luke Shaw both suspended, but that only facilitates for a much more attacking option like Jesse Lingard to exploit West Ham’s big weakness.

Much of the same out wide is needed for Solskjaer in order for United to move back towards the top four.

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