Man Utd celebrated victory last time out against West Ham in the FA Cup.

Overcoming sentiment could be key to Manchester United's Champions League qualification

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Louis van Gaal's Manchester United side go into Tuesday's match against West Ham United knowing that only a victory will suffice as they look to cement their qualification to next seasons' Champions League.

However, in order to guarantee qualification, United must overcome the sentiment of the occasion to secure a vital three points against a West Ham side that come off the back of a 4-1 defeat to Swansea City and who will be playing their last ever game at the Boleyn Ground after 112 years.

The Red Devils were once again handed the initiative in the lucrative and nail-biting race for fourth place and a Champions League spot by neighbours, and Manchester rivals, Manchester City when they failed to secure victory against Arsenal at the weekend.


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The draw meant that City's Champions League hopes now depend on a United slip up.

United now know that if they win both of their remaining fixtures (away to West Ham and at home to Bournemouth) they control their own destiny.

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On the other hand, West Ham, who had hopes of snatching fourth spot away from both Manchester clubs, now sit in seventh place in the league table following a disappointing home defeat to an inconsistent Swansea side, who put in an excellent on-the-day performance.

Although Champions League qualification is not mathematically impossible, the Hammers would require a victory against Man United, and would need both Manchester clubs to lose their final games with a huge shift in goal difference in order to qualify.

West Ham's realistic expectation should now be to attain a Europa League spot and European football next season.

Following Slaven Bilic's arrival, the Irons have had an excellent season, performing above all expectations. In addition, West Ham now boasts genuine quality throughout their side, led by star summer signing, Dimitri Payet - a Premier League Player of the Season nominee.

West Ham United v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Sixth Round Replay

United, however, have history on their side. They haven't lost to West Ham in their last 14 Premier League meeting (11 wins and three draws) and have kept clean sheets against the Hammers in eight of their last 13 contests.

However, despite all the statistics, it's the occasion that could pose the biggest threat to the Red Devils and their Champions League aspirations. The circumstances make this evening's match unlike any other between the sides in recent memory.

In what will undoubtedly be a charged Boleyn Ground, Van Gaal and his side need to be well aware of the Claret and Blue sides' intention to bid farewell to their Upton Park ground with a victory. 

Bilic believes the match will be an 'emotional' affair and is likely to have his side charged up and raring to go in front a capacity crowd for the last time prior to West Ham's move to the Olympic Stadium.

West Ham United v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Sixth Round Replay

In order to give themselves a chance, Van Gaal and his United side will need to be prepared for West Ham to come out of the gates flying.

Billic will want to do everything he can to reward the Hammers faithful and convert the emotional energy within the stadium into an atmosphere to drive his team on.

United do hold one particular trump card, however - Wayne Rooney.

England and Manchester United captain Rooney has scored more goals at Upton Park than any other player Premier League history (7) and has scored a total of 11 goals in 15 Premier League appearances against West Ham.

Marcus Rashford is likely to be recalled to the starting line-up after being rested by management for their 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Norwich City. His pace, direct running and the pressure he puts on opposition defenders will be something that could aid United's attempted to weather any West Ham storm.

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Wayne Rooney
West Ham United
Premier League
Cristiano Ronaldo
Manchester United
UEFA Champions League

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