By Emma Sanders
West Ham have been dealt a boost ahead of their clash with Manchester United as Eric Bailly is set to miss the fixture.
The United defender will join up with the Ivory Coast squad on Monday to take part in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament which means he has been ruled out of the clash with the Hammers.
United manager Jose Mourinho said that his team had asked for Bailly to join up with the Ivory Coast squad 24 hours later so he could play, but the request was denied.
“Bailly is leaving – he goes to the national team,” Mourinho said as quoted by ESPN. “He has to be with them on January 2. We asked them for him to be on January 3 but they refused, so he cannot play against West Ham.”
Bailly started United’s last Premier League victory against Middlesbrough at centre-back and he is one of Jose Mourinho’s first choice defenders.
He has clocked up just 17 appearances in all competitions since joining Manchester United for £30million in the summer but he was absent for almost two months through injury.
Bailly would have been expected to start at centre-back alongside Chris Smalling but Jose Mourinho could opt to replace him with either Phil Jones or Marcos Rojo.
The duo formed a good partnership in the absence of Smalling and Bailly earlier this season but only one of them is likely to start against the Hammers, with Smalling expected to retain his place.
West Ham could be without captain Mark Noble who picked up a knee injury in the defeat to Leicester.
In other West Ham news, this is the expected starting XI against United.