Manchester United overcame a resolute West Ham side 1-0 as we moved back into second place in the Premier League. The performance was uncomfortable at times. In the first half, we did struggle to get a foothold as we could not break down the low block the opposition had set against us. We did create two great chances from which Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood did not convert.
It took an own goal in the second half from West Ham’s Craig Dawson who met Bruno Fernandes corner with his head to put the ball into the net. This was the difference between the sides. United was certainly the better in terms of the chances created over the 90 minutes.
Here is a look at five things we learned from the game.
1. Our Central Defence Held It’s Own
With United’s formation that has McTominay and Fred in the midfield, it sometimes does not offer enough protection to our defence. However, the central defence of Maguire and Lindelof work together superbly against West Ham as they cut out numerous crosses, winning aerial battles against Antonio and Soucek. They also track the runs of the opposition players really well.
Harry Maguire must come in for praise for his performance as he threw his body on the line to stop the West Ham attack from scoring. Our defending has been much improved of late as United has not conceded in the last four Premier League games.
2. Greenwood’s Efforts Merited A Goal
Mason Greenwood is having a challenging season at United. His excellent season last year meant the expectations for him were heightened. This season, he has struggled to match what he did. Over the last month, his form has been good without scoring a goal. There were signs against West Ham that he was finding his touch again and proving to be one of United’s best-attacking players.
On two separate occasions, he hit the post. His first effort being tipped onto the woodwork by West Ham’s Lukasz Fabianski. His gameplay was very good as he drifting wide and was getting in behind the opposition defence. He dropped back as well to link up play which helped United out a lot. Mason Greenwood is not going to be a one-season wonder as he has too much talent to let his career drift.
3. Henderson Was Commanding In Goal
Before the Crystal Palace, Dean Henderson had been told he would get a run of six games in the first team. He has now just played in his fourth game of that run and has only conceded one goal. With David De Gea now back in the country following the birth of his child and will return to training on Monday after self-isolating. Henderson has been using these games to prove he deserves to remain the number one goalkeeper.
You could argue that Henderson is partly to blame for the equaliser conceded against AC Milan in the first leg of the Europa League last 16 tie. Other than that, he has put in some good performances especially in the Manchester Derby. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has backed De Gea throughout the season even when he has made mistakes of his own. However, he faces a decision in the next few weeks over who deserves the goalkeeping spot. On reflection, Henderson deserves to keep his place but whether he does remain another question.
4. Rashford Shows Desire But Misses Clear Chances
There were doubts before the game whether Marcus Rashford would make the squad and if he did, he would probably only make the bench. However, Solskjær played the United forward for the full 90 minutes of the West Ham game. Rashford has battled through the ankle issues that he picked up against Manchester City but still has this long term shoulder injury to contend with. You cannot argue he always gives that desire and commitment on the pitch.
United and England have to decide how best to use Rashford in the next few months with the season coming to an end, then followed by the Euros. The number of games he has played is a lot and has not had the rest he clearly needs. The risk is he might just burnout. During the game against West Ham, he had a number of opportunities to score especially the guilt edge header he missed in the first half. Whether the forthcoming international games go ahead or not, it might be best Rashford takes a rest during this period.
5. Solskjær Decides Against Changes As United See Out The Game
Injuries to a number of key players in recent weeks had meant the game against West Ham saw the bench with limited options to call upon. The only attacking players we had were youngsters Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire. In the game where we want to hold onto the ball once we had got the lead meant that bringing on either of these may have not been the best option. Fans on social media were wanting to see Solskjær making some substitutions but in the end, he decides to stick with the players on the field and it all worked out in the end.
In other games this season, this tactic has not always worked. However, United are limited at the moment with injuries to Martial, Cavani, van de Beek and Pogba.