Manchester United had needed extra time to beat West Ham 1-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup. In the first half, we controlled the game through our possession but was not really creating many chances except for Victor Lindelof’s header which had hit the post. In the second half, West Ham did gain more of a foothold in the game as both sides saw a lack of cutting-edge opportunities. Marcus Rashford did have a one-on-one chance, with Łukasz Fabiański saving his shot. Into extra time, a great counter-attacking play saw McTominay bury a first-time shot to send us the through to the quarter finals.
We look at five things we learned from the game that at times was not most exciting to watch.
1. McTominay The Match Winner
Whilst it took Solskjær time to make his substitutions, it was one of them that eventually made the difference in the game. Scott McTominay scored with a first time shot in the 97th minute after a lay off by Marcus Rashford following a United counter-attack. What was impressive with McTominay was the run he made from just outside of our own six-yard box to get into the opposition half territory.
This is his third goal in the last three games taking his tally for his season to seven. He is level on goals with both Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial. He has stepped up in terms of his contributions for the team. 5 of the 7 goals he has scored have given United the lead in games.
2. Give Van De Beek more time
There had been a clamour amongst United fans to see more of Donny Van Beek in the side. He was given his opportunity to start against West Ham. However, he did not necessarily make a convincing case that he should warrant a regular start. It looked evident as the game went on, he was struggling to make an impact.
With West Ham sitting deep in their first own half, it meant Van De Beek was not able to find the spaces between the lines. He was also unable to link up with other attackers with some clever passes. He did make a number of good runs but none of the United players picked him out.
With game time limited, it means the Dutchman is lacking confidence and rhythm. Overall, the game tonight did pass him by for most of it. It is his first season here at United and does need more time to settle in. He will be learning every day at the club as he starts to understand more about what we want and for his fellow teammates to learn about him and how better to use him.
3. United lacked in the final third
With Bruno Fernandes on the bench, and with Van De Beek still lacking the confidence. It was up to the front three of Rashford, Greenwood, and Martial to provide the inspiration and create chances. United were the better team in the first half. However, for all the dominance we did not have a single shot at goal from open play.
You could see the game plan from West Ham was to sit back and defend in the first half. They had made it difficult for us but United should have already been aware of this as other teams have employed this tactic against us. We should have looked to be more of a threat in the final third of the pitch. The only attempt we had was Victor Lindelof’s header which was diverted onto the post. Whilst Greenwood, Martial, and Cavani had moments, in the second half West Ham continued to frustrate us.
4. Henderson keeps a clean sheet
Following United’s 3-3 draw against Everton, there had been calls for Dean Henderson to replace David De Gea after he made a number of errors in that game. Whether Ole decides to give Henderson a run in the Premier League remains a question. At the moment, his game time has been in the cup competitions.
On the whole, it was a quiet night for him as he hardly had anything to do. West Ham did not have a shot at our goal as they spent the majority camped in their own half. Henderson was always on alert when the opposition put crosses into the box. He gathered a number of balls to stop any aerial threats from the Hammers.
He kept a clean sheet that cannot do him any harm as he pushes to get more regular game time for us.
5. Chance at silverware
Whilst United had to work hard to get the victory against West Ham, Ole Gunnar Solskjær will be pleased to have got through to the next round. He will be hoping to go all way and win this famous trophy for the first time as a manager after suffering four semi-final defeats in the cup competitions previously. We have to get through another round of the FA Cup before we reach this stage again. With the draw for the quarter-finals due to place on Thursday, there are not too many teams that United should have to fear. Even more so, if teams employ the same tactics that West Ham did.