Belfast Telegraph

Allardyce hails improving Hammers

Sam Allardyce is delighted by the reaction of his West Ham squad after they received a 'kick up the backside' during their recent defeat to Southampton.

An all-round poor performance only added to the dejection around Upton Park as the Hammers slipped to a 3-1 loss to Saints, who came from behind to inflict a second straight Barclays Premier League home defeat on Allardyce's side.

The international break followed and, since getting his players back together at their Chadwell Heath training ground, Allardyce has been pleased with the turnaround in form which sees them go to Manchester United in good form having drawn at Hull and beaten Liverpool.

"We were off form but Southampton were a good team on the day and every game since," he said.

"I think we have had the kick up the backside and the lads have responded brilliantly to that disappointing performance.

"We had to wait a long time to put that right - we had to wait 16 days before we played Hull City away after the international break.

"Players like Enner Valencia and Cheikhou Kouyate played two games in that time so our response has been very good."

Allardyce had orginially suggested after the Southampton showing that he would need to have a stern word with his players - but they have answered any criticisms on the pitch.

The 2-2 draw at Hull saw Allardyce change his tactics to allow two strikers to play from the start - with summer signings Valencia and Diafra Sakho instantly forming an understanding.

Stewart Downing, too, has flourished in a new role and Allardyce is satisfied by the flexibility in tactics he now has in his arsenal.

"It has been a good reaction," he added.

"We have looked at the players and changed the system and it looks like they are very adaptable to different ways of playing which is nice for me.

"I think it is good if you can change the shape of a team in any stage of the game or have it for one game and different for the next, there's an old thing about why change it, but you have got to accommodate the opposition you're playing when you're in my position.

"Certain ways of playing have to be adjusted sometimes if you want to get the best out of your players against that team to try and win."

Kouyate will be missing for Saturday's trip to Old Trafford having also had an immediate impact on West Ham's side.

One player who is available is Morgan Amalfitano who scored the last goal in the 3-1 success over Liverpool.

The 29-year-old has yet to start since moving from Marseille on deadline day but has fond memories of playing at United - having scored in a 2-1 win for West Brom during a loan spell with the Baggies last season.

"It is one of the best moments, for sure," he said of his strike at Old Trafford.

"It's one of the performances I'm most proud of, and hopefully we can go there and pull it off again, as we did last season at West Brom."

Despite starring in a first win at United since 1978 and the Red Devils poor start to the current campaign, Amalfitano will not be taking anything for granted against Louis van Gaal's side this weekend.

"I think the most important thing is to go there and play as a team," he added.

"It doesn't matter how many times you've played against Manchester United, they still remain a very good team. You have to go to Old Trafford with the belief you can get the three points if you are to get a result."

"I'm full of confidence, but Manchester United is a great team to play against and we need to give 100 per cent to make sure we get there and grab a result."

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