Michail Antonio is facing a late fitness test to feature against Manchester United in the FA Cup on Tuesday night, but David Moyes has vowed to put out a strong West Ham side.
The Hammers boss is concerned about Antonio’s fitness after the striker looked seriously fatigued as he struggled to lead the line during Saturday’s goalless draw with Fulham, having played the full 90 in victory over Aston Villa in midweek.
It was only the third time across all competitions that the 30-year-old had seen out a full game following his return from a second hamstring injury of the season, with Moyes short on alternatives after selling Sebastien Haller to AFC Ajax without signing a replacement.
So, as Moyes weighs up his options for who to start in attack at Old Trafford, here’s a potential line-up the Scot could name against his former employer…
Moyes rang in the changes as West Ham beat Doncaster Rovers 4-0 in the FA Cup last month, with several rarely-seen players offered a chance to impress against Darren Moore’s League One side.
Andriy Yarmolenko struck the Irons’ second goal of the day while fielded at centre-forward to afford Antonio a rest, but may miss out on the role against Manchester United with Moyes vowing to name as strong a side as possible on Tuesday night despite doubt over Antonio’s fitness.
“He’s still fatigued, so it’ll be a close call whether he makes it or not,” Moyes said. “I’ll see how he is today [Monday]. We’ll need to assess him tomorrow to see if he’s able to play or not.
“I think we’ve picked strong teams against Stockport and Doncaster. We’re certainly not picking a weakened team. We may have one or two changes through injury or suspension, whatever it may be, but we plan to go there with a really strong team and [see] if we can get through to the next round of the FA Cup.”
Jarrod Bowen has also played at striker for Moyes this season and boasts an imperious record when fielded through the middle, having scored seven goals and provided four assists in 12 games for Hull City before his move to east London last year.
The former Tigers attacker moving into a centre-forward role against Manchester United would also allow for Moyes to recall £40,000-per-week dynamo Ryan Fredericks to the starting XI, looking to add greater support for Vladimir Coufal up against Bruno Fernandes like the Irons enjoyed at Aston Villa when the pair worked well to keep Jack Grealish quiet.
Aaron Cresswell and Coufal will be expected to start in favour of Fredericks and Ben Johnson at full-back with Moyes naming as strong a side as possible at Old Trafford, but could be joined by Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena in two of four changes from the side that drew with Fulham on Saturday.
Diop earned a rare start in the third round win over Doncaster but his lack of game time is believed to be down to a personal issue rather than form, while Balbuena remained at the London Stadium despite Deadline Day speculation the Paraguayan could be sold.
Moyes will be without January loan signing Jesse Lingard against Manchester United with the midfielder unable to feature against his parent side, opening the door for Pablo Fornals to re-join Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek in the engine room.
Fornals has played just six minutes since Lingard moved to east London, having fallen to the bench to make space for the England international beside Said Benrahma after starting 20 of his 21 previous appearances for the season in all competitions.