Two penalties, an unjustly ruled out opening goal, head gashes and West Ham’s magnificent performance all came to a simmering collision in a 2-1 win to Manchester United. But the story does not and should not end over there given just how well the Hammers played.
They dominated the first half through possession, shots and even disallowed goals but went into the half one goal down. A well-taken penalty by Paul Pogba (who is apparently done with his thousand step penalty), put the home side in the lead but that did not turn the tide.
West Ham continued to make Manchester United look effectively worthless in that first half. To make things even worse, they had no options going forward. Anthony Martial was played out wide as usual and so was Romelu Lukaku.
The big burly centre-forward spent most of his 75 minutes playing as a right-winger. While he did do so successfully, it left Jesse Lingard as the false nine and that’s not a position where the Englishman does well. The 27-year-old is a winger/second-striker and lacks the strength to hold up the play.
It hurt the Red Devils and they struggled to make an impact before the half-time whistle saved them from any further trouble. A half-time team talk could have been just what they needed to push the memories of the mid-week loss to Barcelona out of their minds.
But nothing changed in the second half and instead, West Ham just pushed on. The Hammers continued to dominate, even winning a large majority of the 50/50 challenges, playing brilliantly.
Eventually, they got what they deserved, three minutes after the restart with Felipe Anderson scoring from a well-placed cross by Manuel Lanzini.
Everything went their way after that and half of Old Trafford expected the away side to get the next goal. However, it was Manchester United who had the next big chance, with Chris Smalling setting substitute Marcus Rashford free.
The young forward was clean through on goal and managed to get his shot off from a tight angle.
However, the angle paid off for Lukasz Fabianski and the former Arsenal man made a great save to deny Rashford. Chances came far and wide but Rashford’s introduction seemed to have done the trick for the home side.
The 21-year-old effectively became their most lethal player on the pitch. He had another chance to put the Red Devils 2-1 up but the cleanly struck header flew above the post. Things had to change and like Rashford did for Manchester United, Michail Antonio had the same impact for the away side.
The 29-year-old lit the pitch on fire, with three separate incidents occurring in the space of four minutes. First, Antonio hit the crossbar after a darting run. He managed to make David De Gea produce the save of the game.
The subsequent corner came to nothing for West Ham but for the home side, it epitomised Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s style of play. A brilliant and searing counter-attack came to an abrupt end when Ryan Fredericks brought down Anthony Martial.
Referee Graham Scott had no choice but to point to the spot and Paul Pogba once again made no mistake. That was effectively the last blast of the game, with the remaining ten odd minutes coming to nothing for either side.
For Manchester United, it means that Solskjaer’s home record in the Premier League is untainted but the Red Devils need to step up. They face Barcelona, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea in their next four games and performances like this will not do them any good.
Here is how some Man United fans reacted to this performance:
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