Sir Alex Ferguson is hopeful that Robin van Persie can go on a scoring run and help Manchester United wrap up the Premier League title, starting with a trip to West Ham on Wednesday.
Van Persie had gone 11 matches without scoring in a United shirt before netting from the penalty spot in a 2-0 win over Stoke City on Sunday. With United needing just seven points from their remaining six matches to secure a 20th championship, Ferguson is optimistic that Van Persie could now return to the prolific form he displayed in the first half of the season.
"There are always going to be question marks from the press -- and particularly from the player himself -- when a striker hasn't scored for a few weeks," he told MUTV.
"I know what strikers are like: when they are scoring they think they are going to score all the time, and when they’re not scoring they wonder when the next goal is going to come along.
"So it was a great goal for Robin [against Stoke] in that respect, and hopefully he kicks on from there."
Ferguson has confirmed that he has no new injury worries and has named the same squad that took three points in a hard-fought win at the Britannia Stadium.
While Manchester United edge closer to achieving their primary objective this season, the same is true for West Ham. Sam Allardyce’s side currently lie 12th in the Premier League on 38 points and look almost certain to be playing in the big time again next season, but the manager will doubtless want to pass the always cited 40-point mark.
West Ham are undefeated in three games and secured a draw at Southampton on Saturday with a third goal in two games for Andy Carroll.
Allardyce is expected to have defender Winston Reid and midfielder Mark Noble back from injury but center-back James Tomkins is ruled out after picking up a calf problem last time out.
West Ham (probable)
D: Demel, Reid, Collins, O’Brien
M: O’Neil, Diame
Vaz Te, Nolan, Jarvis
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra
M: Cleverley, Carrick
Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck
F: Van Persie
Prediction: Against Stoke, Manchester United continued their streak since exiting the Champions League of uninspired performances but, with the exception of the defeat to Manchester City, doing enough to get the win.
Despite the imminent achievement of regaining the league title, it is a season that is in some ways now limping toward its conclusion.
West Ham have made life difficult for Manchester United in the teams’ three previous meetings this season and could well do the same again on Wednesday. But United have the mental toughness to grind out another victory.
West Ham 0-1 Manchester United
Where to watch: The Premier League match will kick-off from Upton Park at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN2, with a live stream available on ESPN3.