Premier League
Manchester United 1 West Ham United 1

Wednesday, 22nd July 2020
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United confirmed their Premier League safety with a game to spare after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

In a game they?EUR(TM)ll feel they controlled, Moyes saw his side play with confidence and control at both ends of the pitch, ensuring they play top flight football next season. They now go into the final game of the season under no pressure, safe in the knowledge that there is no way the teams below can catch them.


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The point was the least their performance deserved, their fluent football and defensive discipline a joy to watch for West Ham fans.

With an unchanged side, the opening stages gave the impression that Champions League-chasing Manchester United would lay siege to the West Ham goal. But after weathering that short storm, the drinks break brought relief and a change of tack.

Now it was West Ham looking comfortable; Rice controlling the midfield whilst Antonio and Bowen stretched the Man United defence in every direction. Neither team could claim control of the game, but the better football was coming from West Ham.

Half chances came for both teams. Greenwood wasted a wonderful chance at one end; Ogbonna and Antonio threatened at the other. It was with the half-time whistle approaching that the game was changed.

A short-freekick routine led to Rice drilling a wonderfully-hit shot at goal. The effort was blocked amongst a sea of red shirts, the force of the effort seeming to knock Pogba off his feet having taken the shot right into his face.

But appeals went up and the game stopped. VAR came in to look at what happened and saw what the audience at home most likely missed. With the ball rifling at goal, Paul Pogba had thrown his hands up to protect his face and punched the ball clear in doing so.


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As Gary Neville lambasted his stupidity on Sky's commentary, West Ham were given the chance to take the lead. Viewers waited for Mark Noble to step up, but instead it was Antonio who was given the job. His short run-up meant little as De Gea dived the wrong way and the in-form forward slid the ball home for his 10th goal of the season.

It was just reward for a half in which West Ham would have had plenty of excuses to play on the defensive and just look to frustrate the hosts, but had instead played with freedom and confidence on the front foot.

The Hammers started the second half in similar fashion, but were soon punished for sloppy defending as only five minutes in, Greenwood equalised. It came from some wonderful attacking football that took advantage of charitable defensive play.

Martial was allowed the freedom to stop and turn around on the edge of the box, before exchanging passes with Greenwood and opening up the West Ham defence. The young striker took full advantage of the space inside the box, firing in a shot that Fabianski could do nothing about.

Yet it appears Moyes has changed the attitude of this team. Rather than going into their shells and awaiting their punishment, West Ham instead recovered their composure to continue taking the game to Solskjaer?EUR(TM)s side.

Both teams had chances, but the hosts seemed to take every touch with a level of struggle and pressure. In contrast, West Ham were enjoying their football and never looked to accept a point.


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The big chances fell to the away side. Bowen came close in the box, shifting the ball to his right foot and stinging De Gea?EUR(TM)s palms with a deflected effort. Next it was Rice?EUR(TM)s turn, his curler from distance only just sailing wide with De Gea beaten.

And then the biggest chance of the lot, Antonio heading over from six yards after a perfect Noble free kick from the right. He should have scored.

Still, the Hammers had earned a valuable point from a game they were fully expected to lose. This Man United side needed the points, but they were stifled and controlled by West Ham. They could not match The Hammers and were lucky to finish without a player sent off; Fernandes lucky to survive further punishment after gesturing to headbutt Noble.

As the final whistle blew, Moyes and his side celebrates the confirmation of a mission accomplished.

Early into Project Restart, avoiding relegation had seemed a difficult task. But a win against Chelsea breathed life into the whole club and David Moyes must be congratulated for how he has clinched safety for West Ham once more.

One game remains, one that looked so treacherous weeks ago, but is now nothing but another game. Whereas it once looked like the final day of the season was about protecting Premier League status, now the pressure melts away.

Whatever drama is still to come, West Ham can?EUR(TM)t suffer. Not for this season, anyway.


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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Some slow and scary footwork aside, he made some decent early saves and was solid. Couldn?EUR(TM)t do anything about the equaliser.


Ben Johnson
Probably standing up already as the best defensive full back in the squad. Very restrained going forward but showed his promise with one gorgeous cross on the volley. Doesn?EUR(TM)t look at all out of place.


Aaron Cresswell
Combined well down the left with the likes of Fornals and Rice, put in a couple of fantastic crosses, whilst also not giving much away at the back. Solid.


Issa Diop
Diop again looked more comfortable defending against a ?EUR~top?EUR(TM) side and their style of play. Looked too good for the Man United attackers and stepped out or defence well on occasion to dominate in the middle.


Angelo Ogbonna
Rarely gave any forward breathing space. That said, Martial stepped away from the box and allowed to turn around for the goal. Ogbonna never got near enough to him or Greenwood in that move. He was otherwise very good and took charge, so it?EUR(TM)s hard to criticise him especially as it was collective failure on the equaliser.


Declan Rice
The best player on the park. Dominated midfield both forward and back. The confidence in his game is helping him to control the centre of the park from top to bottom, including getting shots in from outside the box and adding more threat to his passing range.


Mark Noble
A calm and composed presence in this game. Comfortably had the most passes in the side and was effective in his free role in midfield, choosing when to join attacks and drifting to where he could influence the game.


Tomas Soucek
His versatility is clear. This game, he was barely a presence in the opposition third, instead staying much more disciplined and holding deeper. He was good there too, making important interceptions and clearances.


Pablo Fornals
As ever, Fornals was unselfish and sacrificed himself for the team, working up and down the left like a wing back to protect Cresswell and then support Antonio. Has a great habit of sensing where he?EUR(TM)ll be needed in attack and popping up to contribute. Didn?EUR(TM)t come off today, but he was useful at both ends.


Jarrod Bowen
Never really got the reward he deserved for some excellent play down the wing. Had the full back scared all game and was a fantastic outlet to start attacks. In the wars too, kicked up and down the park, but kept coming and kept wanting more.


Michail Antonio
Worked hard and made himself a threat. Should have scored with a header from a Noble free kick. His inconsistent finishing will be a problem if he stays as a striker, although it?EUR(TM)s been rarer and rarer until today. Surprise to see him take the penalty and it wasn?EUR(TM)t great, but enough to go in.



Substitutes

Arthur Masuaku
(Replaced Cresswell) Hard to come on and make a difference at that point, but he added pace and some impetus to a tired left side.


Sebastien Haller
(Replaced Antonio) Limited chance to impress, but he did win aerial duels and some good headed clearances in a game that had almost come to a halt.


Andriy Yarmolenko
(Replaced Bowen) Did the required job with the time ticking away.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Conor Coventry
Did not play.


Jack Wilshere
Did not play. * Other subs not used: Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: Michail Antonio 45                  .

Booked: Arthur Masuaku 81          .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: De Gea, Fosu-Mensah (Wan-Bissaka 45), Maguire, Lindelof, Williams, Matic, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood, Martial, Rashford (Ighalo 85).

Subs not used: Romero, Dalot, Fred, Mata, McTominay, Lingard, James.

Goals: Greenwood (51).

Booked: Fosu-Mensah, Rashford, Fernandes.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Paul Tierney.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Declan Rice.