sport

Noble wary of United strikeforce

Midfielder Mark Noble admits West Ham may have to brick up their goal in an attempt to halt Manchester United's freescoring attack.

United head to Upton Park for Saturday's late FA Cup kick-off on the back of a 4-0 away victory over Wigan which was the Premier League leaders eighth win in the last nine.

Although England striker Wayne Rooney is sidelined for a couple of weeks by a knee problem, Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie each helped themselves to two goals against the Latics.

Noble knows that despite the changes in personnel likely from Sir Alex Ferguson's men, the Red Devils have plenty of attacking options to worry even the meanest defences.

"It is anyone's guess how you stop them, with the service which goes up to Van Persie and Rooney, the players they have, they are brilliant," said Noble, who scored an early penalty as West Ham beat Norwich 2-1.

"We might have to build a wall in front of our goal, I don't know - but it will be a great night and we are all looking forwards to it.

"This is the FA Cup and anything can happen.

"They will make some changes and we probably will too, but if we play anything like we did against Norwich, then we have a good chance.

"Our main aim obviously is to stay mid-table in the league, but when you play Manchester United at home in the FA Cup, you get that extra edge and buzz, and we are going to want to win.

"It will be a great occasion for everyone."

Despite being handed a controversial spot-kick inside three minutes when referee Mark Clattenburg ruled Winston Reid had his shirt pulled by Canaries defender Ryan Bennett, West Ham were good value for yesterday's victory.

Indeed, had Carlton Cole not blazed over from six yards, the home side would have been further ahead at the break and so avoided a few anxious moments late on when Russell Martin crashed in what proved just a consolation for the Canaries, who have now lost four successive matches.

West Ham had last won when they beat Chelsea 3-1 at Upton Park on December 1, since then losing three from four.

Noble, though, feels Sam Allardyce's squad can be confident for the second half of the campaign as they look to stay away from trouble at the wrong end of the table.

"We have had some tough games in the last month, against the bigger teams you have to work harder and we did pick up some injuries to some big players, but we have managed to come through it and are still in mid-table," he said.

"Now we can push on and look forward to the new year.

"We just need to keep that gap there and winning games."

Noble captained the side yesterday as Kevin Nolan was suspended.

Defender James Collins also had to serve a one-match ban, meaning the likes of midfielders Jack Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te were rushed back into action after long injury lay-offs.

Manager Allardyce feels his squad are "down to the bare bones" but is hopeful England striker Andy Carroll will be available following a knee problem by the end of the month.

Allardyce is likely to look to bolster his options now the transfer window has opened.

"We have been trying very hard over the last few weeks to line up in the short term rather than the long term," Allardyce said.

"We will wait and see as January develops whether we get any joy or not, but what we can say is that we have got our feelers out."