Premier League
West Ham United 1 Manchester United 3

Saturday, 5th December 2020
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham were taught a lesson on their profligacy this evening after they missed their big chances when on top, and saw Manchester United ruthlessly take theirs in a real game of two halves that ended 3-1 to the visitors.

Having gone in 1-0 at the break, Moyes's side was comfortably on top. But the introduction of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford turned things on their head, although the inability of VAR and the assistant referees to notice the ball sailing out of play in the build-up to the away side's equaliser.


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In reality, West Ham may feel hard done by, but should also take a lot of the blame with at least two open-goal chances not tucked away when the side were on top.

Haller came back into the side as Antonio failed to make the squad, ramifications of a faltering return to fitness last week. The back five remained in place, Benrahma's 45 minutes in victory last week not enough to earn him a place in the starting eleven.

With 2,000 fans back in the stadium and a glimpse of hope for normality as the fans applauded the players, West Ham controlled the first half.

It came from the energy of the front three, with Haller a part of the pressing and movement that Fornals and Bowen always bring. It unsettled a slow and steady Manchester United, the away side failing to match those fundamentals of their opponents in the first half.

Bowen in particular was excellent, scaring the defence with his dribbling and looking eager to score. It was every part of his game he looked to bring from Hull when arriving, and arguably his best 45 minutes in a West Ham shirt. He and Fornals combined to force discomfort early on, Fornals unable to squeeze in a deflected Bowen shot. Bowen was soon adjudged offside as he fired beyond Henderson.

Those opening 20 minutes did settle somewhat, and West Ham were comfortable letting Solskjaer's side keep the ball in safe areas and challenged them to break the defence down.

As they proved unable to, West Ham grew confidence. Bowen shined brightest, beating men with the ball when he wanted, picking out clever passes and crosses too. Soon, a Bowen ball from the right following a slaloming run was headed wide by a stretching Fornals.

Moments later, the Spaniard came even closer, a Bowen cross taken down and rolled back by Haller into Fornals's path, the midfielder able to stab through the defender's legs, only to see the ball bounce off the inside of the post and back to where the beaten Henderson stood.


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Eventually, the pressure told. This time it came from a corner, Cresswell finding Rice's run at the front post and his header across goal prodded home by Soucek. It gave them the lead, and one that soon should have been doubled.

Fornals managed to volley a ball beautifully for Haller to chase beyond the Manchester United defence and towards the goalkeeper. He rounded Henderson, then turned again to shift the ball away from the covering defender and onto his right foot.

Goal gaping, it was of course here where his footing failed beneath him and the big forward tumbled to the ground to let the defence off the hook and waste a quite glorious chance.

Balbuena soon had a shot knocked wide in the area and the visitors were all at sea defensively.

Bowen was next to get in behind the defence after a great exchange of volleyed passes with Fornals. This time, Wan-Bissaka had the pace to get in a tackle before Bowen could release, a last-gasp but excellent challenge.

The half ended with mixed feelings. Whilst the side were dominant and in control, they surely knew Manchester United could not be any worse than that, and that their big chances may well have come and gone.

In the break, Rashford and Fernandes were brought on and the ability to bring their two best players off the bench made a huge difference. It was not an immediate one, with West Ham able to waste one more golden opportunity before crumbling to pieces.

This time, Bowen won a long ball and his knockdown to Haller was used well by the striker, rolled across to the right side of the area where Coufal ran on to meet it. He took his time and rolled it across the face of goal, with Bowen stretching at the back post to just not get enough contact and slide in to knock the ball just wide with Henderson definitely beaten.


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From there, it all went wrong for West Ham and David Moyes, who still hasn't beaten Manchester United since his sacking from the club.

It was the substitutes, Rashford and Fernandes, who really ran the show. The pace of the former was consistently too much for Coufal and Balbuena, although it is hard to blame individuals. The defence appeared to be squeezing the game, but it played right into Manchester United's strengths.

Soon it was quick fired passes behind the defence and into big space for Rashford, Greenwood and sometimes Fernandes to run onto and cause problems. However, the equaliser was hugely controversial and highlighted quite amateurish limitations for VAR (and the forever declining standards of on-field officiating in the Premier League.)

The finish itself was exquisite, Pogba bending in a shot from 25 yards after a good run and pass by Fernandes. But to get there, a Henderson clearance quite clearly went off the field and curled back in as it flew over the defence. Moyes was sure, to the point he was nearly not looking as the move continued, instead applauding and readying his players for their throw-in.

Instead, the assistant referee wasn't looking. There's no other point worth making on the on-field decision. The officials were not looking where the ball was.

VAR, it appears, does not have the capability of cameras down the line, the ball does not have the technology like the goal line technology, so the amateurish decision-making was allowed to happen.

Fernandes and Pogba, within their rights of course to carry on, did excellently from there and in all the fuss, it was one of many examples of a West Ham defence unable to get their head around fast and direct runs from Manchester United's attack.

Around a minute or two of play later, it was 2-1. This time, Fabianski was sloppy taking in and then clearing a pass back, having to rush and kick the ball into touch under good pressure. From the throw, it was simply worked down the line for Telles to cross. Greenwood controlled and spun to shoot at goal in one fluid motion and it was drilled low beyond Fabianski and into the back of the net.


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The life had gone from West Ham. A well-saved Cresswell freekick was about all the Hammers had to excite them as the game went very easily to Manchester United's favour.

Rashford fired in a warning before eventually punishing West Ham. The first time through on goal, right down the middle, he beat the goalkeeper but hit the post.

Moyes acted, his team floundering and behind, by replacing Fornals and Bowen with Benrahma and Lanzini, clearly not comfortable changing the shape of his side this week. It was ultimately pointless, affecting neither end of the pitch.

With 13 minutes left, Rashford finished the game. With the defence high again, Mata played a beautiful first time pass through the heart of the defence and Rashford was away behind Balbuena. This time Fabianski came out to him, and the forward dinked it over him as Fabianski dived low.

There was still that decent Cresswell freekick to come, but West Ham were beaten; beaten on the scoreboard, beaten mentally and beaten physically.

It came as a good reminder that three wins with poor performances does not make the season. It too was a reminder of the decisiveness needed in front of goal, the visitors clinical and the home side wasteful. West Ham ended ahead on expected goals, but looked out of their depth against the quality of Fernandes and Rashford.

The positives remained: the attacking trio were fantastic in the first half and Rice was able to bully the midfield. The first half really was full of some of the best this West Ham side has to offer, the sharpness in front of goal an obvious issue.

But questions need be asked of how the side were able to drop off so significantly in the second 45, and why the manager allowed it to continue unchanged for so long, and allowed his side to press high as a defence and play quite perfectly into what that Manchester United attack needed to thrive.


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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Arguably too easily beaten on all three goals, but definitely takes much of the blame for Greenwood's, given he should have done better with a simple chance to clear the ball in his possession.


Vladimir Coufal
Handled Martial with ease in the first half, but couldn't deal with the space Rashford could run into. Hard to question individual defenders in the second half, the line was very much wrong and they were exposed by the system, whether that was the manager's instructions or poor organisation by the defence.


Arthur Masuaku
It might just be that Aaron Wan-Bissaka, an excellent one-on-one defender, was too good for Masuaku's dribbling to expose. But he didn't really have an impact on the game, and we lose a lot when Masuaku isn't beating players.


Fabian Balbuena
Balbuena had an excellent first half and controlled his channel with aggressive front foot defending. Exposed for pace by Rashford.


Angelo Ogbonna
Seemed to get his line wrong individually a few times and the absence of a standard striker seemed to disturb how the central three defended. Much as they got caught by Kane and Tottenham, the wider men were allowed to move centrally as the centre backs were not occupied by a striker.


Aaron Cresswell
His corner was excellent and in the perfect spot between to Manchester United defenders for Rice to run onto. His freekick was also clever and struck excellently. Another whose first half performance was excellent and second half the opposite.


Declan Rice
Good first half, let down by others around him in the second half, seemingly the only one who could get near the best of Manchester United. There is a tackle on Rashford in there, the forward in full flow going at the defence, which is worth watching the whole game for. It was fantastic. But the middle of the park was also exposed and he disappeared as a forward-thinking midfielder as the game went on.


Tomas Soucek
Fought well in the first half and disrupted his opponents, although he most definitely should have been booked for one lunging tackle from behind, and then he popped up with a clever run to score his goal. On the ball, he was still limited and slow, but his first half job was brilliant. In the second half, Mata and Fernandes dropping in to help Pogba and McTominay was too much for him.


Jarrod Bowen
Bowen's first half performance was so good, he and Fornals too good for Manchester United, that he still remains on an 8 even after a poor second half. There were times he weaved through defenders like a prime Ryan Giggs, and his understanding and movement in combination with Fornals is the kind of fluid movement from a frontline that West Ham do not often experience.


Pablo Fornals
The first half was a Bowen/Fornals exhibition game. Their one-touch play and interchange between each other, on the ball and off it, was beguiling and absolutely tore the Manchester United defence and midfield to shreds.


Sebastien Haller
It may be harsh, as Haller again showed improvement in work rate and chemistry with Fornals and Bowen, but that big chance he blew was almost a signal to all West Ham fans that this feeling of positivity would be fleeting. It was unfortunate, but a clinical striker just gets it done.



Substitutes

Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Bowen, 75) Basically a non-entity, really. It is hard to remember him being there, but the team appeared to have lost all life by the time he entered.


Said Benrahma
(Replaced Fornals, 75) Should have been on sooner, but looked lively in his time on the pitch. Doesn't appear to lack any confidence and is fighting for the right to start, which could well be why both Fornals and Bowen have been playing so well.


Ben Johnson
(Replaced Coufal, 85) Can only presume Coufal was injured and Moyes chose to stick with a like-for-like move.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Issa Diop
Did not play.


Mark Noble
Did not play.


Robert Snodgrass
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Arthur Masuaku, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: Tomas Soucek 38                  .

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindel?f, Maguire (c), Telles, McTominay, Van De Beek (Fernandes 46), Pogba, Greenwood, Martial (Mata 62), Cavani (Rashford 46).

Subs not used: Grant, Tuanzebe, Williams, Matic.

Goals: Pogba (65), Greenwood (68), Rashford (78).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Attendance: 2,000.

Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.