West Ham United entertain Manchester United at the London Stadium on Sunday and Manuel Pellegrini needs to be careful.

West Ham go into the match unbeaten since the opening game of the season.

A 0-0 draw at Aston Villa on Monday night was more positive for the Hammers than it was the hosts as Pellegrini’s side had to play with 10 men for the last 27 minutes following the dismissal of Arthur Masuaku.

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West Ham must make do without rash Masuaku

The left-back has a reputation for occasionally being something of a liability defensively.

While his second booking at Villa Park was harsh, the rashness of the challenge did not help matters.

As a result of the sending off, Masuaku will miss the game against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils.

And that leaves West Ham with a big headache.

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Cresswell concern as James threat looms

The alternative is Aaron Cresswell. And if you ask any West Ham fan, that is no alternative at all based on his dismal form in the claret and blue over the last two or three seasons.

The former Hammer of the Year has struggled to rediscover his fitness, speed and form since a knee injury in 2016.

His display against Manchester City in West Ham’s only defeat of the season only served to fuel the belief among some fans that Cresswell is no longer up to it at the top level.

 

Throw into the mix the prospect of the Liverpudlian facing jet heeled Manchester United star Dan James and West Ham suddenly look vulnerable.

So Pellegrini must do what he did against Villa and replace Masuaku with veteran Pablo Zabaleta.

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Pellegrini must use Zabaleta instead

The experienced Argentine was superb when he entered the fray at Villa Park. Her rolled back the years with some surging runs. And his game knowledge meant he was never exposed despite playing at left-back rather than his native right-back position.

West Ham fans will feel more confident in Zabaleta shackling James than Cresswell.

James has bagged three goals in his first five games for Manchester United.

The former Swansea man’s pace has seen him become an instant hit at Old Trafford.

It says something about how low Cresswell’s stock has fallen that 34-year-old Zabaleta, playing out of position, is Pellegrini’s best alternative.

And it is a position the Chilean will have to address if not in January then the summer.

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