Premier League
Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United 

Saturday, 22nd January 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

For the second time this season, West Ham were beaten cruelly as Manchester United again scored a stoppage time goal to beat David Moyes and his side.

With what was the last real kick of the game, Marcus Rashford tapped the ball into an empty net to snatch the three points and give his team a 1-0 win they had done little to deserve.

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It was a tight match, very little in the way of chances, but as West Ham tried to fight through the fatigue late on, Manchester United could bring on Martial, Cavani and Rashford; the latter two who combined for the goal. In contrast, West Ham made one change, Fredericks making a rare appearance as others had to play on tired legs for 90 minutes.

The game started with good news for The Hammers as Zouma and Soucek both returned to the starting line-up. There was a first West Ham Premier League start for Alphonse Areola as Lukasz Fabianski missed the game. Diop and Vlasic both made way as Moyes asked his players to recover from last week?EUR(TM)s disappointing loss to Leeds United.

Those looking at Zouma?EUR(TM)s return to be the end of any defensive woes were reminded early on that Dawson remains, and has errors in his game too. A poor pass across midfield to Zouma was right to a red shirt, short of his own teammate, and it gave the home side an opening. Dawson was lucky that Greenwood took the touch onto his stronger left foot when in the box, giving the recovering Zouma enough of a window to pinch the ball in a dangerous position.

To his credit, it was his only rocky moment, the defence looking far more secure in this game than any since Zouma?EUR(TM)s injury. The Frenchman?EUR(TM)s absence has been keenly felt, and today he returned with an exceptional performance.

The game lacked anything to really excite, the quality low throughout. There were moments of keen work from Rice and Bowen when winning back possession in the Manchester United half, but both failed to make anything of promising opportunities. It was a tale of West Ham?EUR(TM)s attacking play, with pretty much every opening spurned by poor use of the ball.

There never seemed to be much control about West Ham?EUR(TM)s play in possession, rushed and wasteful under continuous pressure. Even in moments where they weren?EUR(TM)t closed down, it felt as if the composure was never in anyone?EUR(TM)s play except Rice. In a game most fans will want to forget quickly, the midfielder was brilliant in his defensive duties and the best player on the pitch.

Right on half time, West Ham had their best opening. A dummy by Bowen let the ball roll to Antonio in the box. He had space to shoot, but the striker tried to tee up Fornals. The Spaniard passed on to Lanzini, but he was halted by smart defending from McTominay and the chance was gone.

Manchester United had controlled the ball, but were kept at arm?EUR(TM)s length. Just like the League Cup game earlier in the season, the quality of their chances were low, shots from range that West Ham were clearly comfortable competing with.

It came to half-time at 0-0, the first 45 minutes of football entirely forgettable. Neither team had had a shot on target and they didn?EUR(TM)t really look like they were going to either.

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Unfortunately for anyone watching the sport for entertainment, it remained a similar game for most of the second half. It should be made clear that much of this was because West Ham defended very well. Rice screened brilliantly, the difference of having Soucek alongside him also helped as the restricted the space in the middle of the park and snapped up any loose touches or moves.

The centre back pair were sharp too, Zouma making a magnificent intervention to stop Ronaldo tapping in an easy goal, only for the offside flag to render it pointless.

There was only really one occasion that the hosts broke through, a lucky roll of the ball as an interception bounced into the path of Fred. The Brazilian was just inside the area and hit powerfully at goal, but the shot was well saved by Areola. The goalkeeper was troubled rarely, but looked sharp in his duties when called upon for shots or crosses.

The theme from the first half continued in West Ham?EUR(TM)s attack, Pablo Fornals again making a poor choice on the ball in the final third. With the ball in the area, he could have shot, he could have passed to Cresswell?EUR(TM)s overlap, but delayed and ended up with neither option available. These were rare openings in a tight encounter.

Moments later, a corner curled all the way through the challengers in the penalty area and fell to Jarrod Bowen on the edge of the area. His shot smashed into the sidenetting.

Bowen looked the sharpest of the attackers, with excellent driving runs causing the defenders on the back foot. One dart down the right side forced a horrible challenge from Maguire and the Manchester United captain may have been lucky to only receive a yellow.

Manchester United pushed forwards with more numbers and more desperation. They created little in open play, but soon missed a big chance as Varane got to the near post unmarked on a corner, only to see his header across goal go just wide.

With the home side flowing forward, Bowen started to find space. His runs were a threat, but he too failed to find anyone at the end of them. To his credit, a 70 yard sprint with three men around you is a harder position than the ones wasted by others earlier.

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The difference between the sides came once again from the bench. At the London Stadium, Jesse Lingard had come on to give his side a lift and win the game.

Here, when the managers looked to their benches, the chasm was wide. Rangnick brought on Martial, Cavani and Rashford; Moyes took off Coufal for Fredericks.

West Ham did have one big chance as the final minutes ticked away. Soucek won a header from a corner and guided it with a flick across the face of goal. It skidded wide and had a runner gone to the back post, a simple goal awaited.

There was a half-chance for Martial expertly snuffed out by Zouma, but the misery waited until the final seconds.

A poor touch from Bowen gave Manchester United the ball with the away side caught slightly forward. A high ball down the right could only be flicked on by Fredericks, to the feet of Ronaldo.

He slipped it down the left of the penalty area for Cavani, who drilled it across goal, past Areola and right into the path of fellow substitute Marcus Rashford to smash it into an empty net and steal the win.

A tight offside call went against the Hammers, Cavani kept onside by Cresswell, but more frustration can be attached to the left back?EUR(TM)s reaction. In appealing for the offside, he does not get back to clear the ball properly or track his man. It?EUR(TM)s a harsh criticism, but this is a cruel game and the finest of margins has allowed Manchester United to beat this West Ham team twice this season without ever really earning it.

Instead the points went to the home side, as did fourth place. West Ham hold fifth, but have played more games than all of their rivals and look short of the ability to maintain the position as these bigger sides with stronger squads circle.

The squad was exposed here, either too poor a selection to use on the bench or not smart enough a use of it. Sadly, it feels like a lot of the planning for tomorrow - whilst a wise ideal - may leave today?EUR(TM)s opportunities wasted.

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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
Not particularly tested, but was good in what he did. His kicking is better than Fabianski?EUR(TM)s, he was out well for crosses, he?EUR(TM)s quicker across and off his line. He?EUR(TM)ll be frustrated he wasn?EUR(TM)t given much chance to prove his quality here.

Vladimir Coufal
Coufal?EUR(TM)s use of the ball has been abysmal in recent games. Aside from Watford, he has been a passer so poor that it?EUR(TM)s causing issues. He may just be lucky that his replacements, Johnson and Fredericks, are not particularly good with it either. Defensively solid.

Aaron Cresswell
Questions will be asked about him on the goal again today. Many were asked against Leeds too. Needs to get his defensive sharpness back or he will cost us goals.

Craig Dawson
One sloppy mistake aside - and he?EUR(TM)ll usually make one - Dawson defended very well.

Kurt Zouma
When called upon, Zouma was note perfect. Eased his way back in and the quality is so clear having watched Diop and Dawson for a month.

Declan Rice
He wasn?EUR(TM)t the box-to-box dynamo that some like, but he looked every inch the best defensive midfielder in the world as he covered gaps, stole possession, used the ball smartly and still dropped in a few barnstorming runs. Oozed class.

Tomas Soucek
Quietly effective defensively but struggled with the ball. A generous score because you can see where he improves on what Lanzini did just with his presence, making three interceptions and three clearances.

Manuel Lanzini
As ever, neat on the ball, but not good enough to really stamp his quality on things. Just didn?EUR(TM)t really make an impact.

Pablo Fornals
Having returned on form, today he looked out of sorts. Just repeated poor choices and struggled on the left with Lanzini and Cresswell coming over to help and none of the three having any pace.

Jarrod Bowen
Probably the only threat going forward and in a game where he was a little quiet. Let down by Lanzini, Antonio and Fornals being poor in the final third

Michail Antonio
Given a mostly thankless task, he had moments where his running added a threat and relieved pressure. Was too tired to make any impact from about 70 minutes but we have no choice but to keep him going.


Ryan Fredericks
(Replaced Coufal, 69) A harsh 5/10, but he isn?EUR(TM)t good enough with the ball and gets caught in no man?EUR(TM)s land with the forward ball for the goal.

Darren Randolph
Did not play.

Arthur Masuaku
Did not play.

Ben Johnson
Did not play.

Issa Diop
Did not play.

Alex Kral
Did not play.

Mark Noble
Did not play.

Nikola Vlasic
Did not play.

Andriy Yarmolenko
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: None.

Booked: Declan Rice 63          .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Telles, McTominay, Fred (Cavani 82), Fernandes, Elanga (Rashford 62), Ronaldo, Greenwood (Martial 82).

Subs not used: Henderson, Jones, Matic, van de Beek, Lingard, Mata.

Goals: Rashford (90+3).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Jonathan Moss.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Declan Rice.