Premier League
Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United 

Sunday, 30th October 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

It was another tight, brave and credible defeat for West Ham on the road this season, David Moyes's side falling to a 1-0 defeat after a first-half Marcus Rashford header. In a cagey affair, it all came down to one failure in defence, and one magnificent header.

The manager made one change from Monday's home win over Bournemouth, with Craig Dawson returning to the side and Thilo Kehrer moving to right back, at the expense of Ben Johnson.


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It meant a continuation of Flynn Downes's advanced midfield role, one which has come under some criticism. The position will frustrate, what with a somewhat defensive midfielder being used in a number 10-like role, but the goal is to make the game harder for their ball players in deeper positions, allowing for more pressure to stop their moves starting, and a higher chance of turning the ball over. The issue, as it has been so far this season, is what happens when those loose balls are swallowed up.

In a sign of things to come, West Ham looked to have an early breakaway chance, but Benrahma took too long to make up his mind with a runner free on the right, and then took the wrong option when he had. It was a snapshot of West Ham in and approaching the final third, a failure of composure and confidence when that sense of calm is most required. Unfortunately for The Hammers, the player with the strength of mind to handle those moments remained injured, and Paqueta is still not expected to be seen for West Ham until after the World Cup.

Whilst West Ham offered those teases, getting into good spaces and finding opportunities to break into the Manchester United final third, the issue again was what they did with it.

In a more detailed tale of the first half, and the game overall, there would be many moments highlighting the threat Benrahma carried, the moments he forced a defender to backtrack hurriedly, the clever touches and the dancing feet.

But a match report needs mostly to talk of things that actually happened, and Benrahma appears too often to excel in making things almost threatening. He was both the spark and the issue, although more criticism can go to Downes, Scamacca and Bowen, whose movement wasn't great and their own decisions often poor. Whilst Benrahma flattered to deceive, at least he came with intent and determination. It was a battle the Manchester United defenders mostly won, but he certainly made sure it was one they had to go win. Others were far too passive.

The big chances came for the home side. Erik Ten Hag has got this side to a much better place, and they are improving beyond just bettering their results. This is a better team, a harder one to beat, and the disappointment should (eventually) reflect that.

Big chances came from sloppy West Ham errors. Rashford could have done much better after Dawson passed a ball right to him in the West Ham half. A moment later, the forward headed powerfully at goal, but right at Fabianski.

Still, these were fleeting moments, and West Ham were having some of their own. It would be remiss of any report not to mention the beautiful 360 degree spin Benrahma pulled out to beat two Manchester United defenders, but it would be equally churlish not to include fact he then blasted a shot right at a defender from about 30 yards. Benrahma giveth?EUR?

It just happened to be another of those games where things wouldn't quite click. Unlike Bournemouth, Premier League teams will punish toothless attacks, You can only have so much good territory, only so many chances before you're punished at the higher levels.


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There was always a feeling that it only had to click for West Ham to take advantage of the space they were being given at Old Trafford. But that tale has played out many times before, and not just many times here.

And for every hope that it would take just one moment to click for West Ham, it was very apparent it would only take the same for the hosts to score.

They should have 10 minutes before half-time. A short corner saw Shaw drop a shoulder and beat Bowen on the edge of the box before curling in a cross. Zouma - who was almost impeccable throughout - got up just ahead of Ronaldo to prevent an easy goal, but his header fell to Elanga. He took a touch to keep it in the air and then volleyed at goal, his shot so bad that it was kept on before rolling off for a throw.

It was, however, a warning to West Ham. When you allow a certain level of pressure around your box and back yourself to defend crosses better than your opponents can attack them, you take a risk. Everything has to go right.

And it can't always. It didn't at Liverpool, when lax pressure on the cross gave Nunez his goal. This time, a quick and clever exchange of passes from a throw by Fernandes and Eriksen saw the Dane create space to cross. His cross was beautiful, curling deliciously to the back post, hung up to be attacked.

Kehrer was under it, but that is where he remained, the German choosing not to atack the header. Rashford had other ideas, sailing through the air and powering a wonderful header into the bottom corner. The right back had taken a chance, and even if he reads it wrong, not to jump made him almost a platform for Rashford to lever himself on to score.

The defending left much to be desired, however good the cross and the header were.

And so West Ham went in a goal behind at half-time, still in the game and undoubtedly ready to try stay in it until the later stages before looking to siege the home side.

Fabianski was replaced at half-time, the Pole injuring himself as he rushed out to head a ball away outside the box. He landed awkwardly, and whilst he finished the half, the decision was made to replace him. Neither goalkeeper was tested all that much.


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The first chance of the half went to West Ham, Benrahma doing really well to get to the byline and play a sharp pass back to Scamacca.

His first-time effort was blocked, and then the striker raised his foot high to try win the rebounding ball. Martinez went in with his head, and he went down. Scamacca had been booked for a nothing foul in the first half, and now Manchester United players rounded the referee as their own player lay so fatefully hurt, cards brandished and complaints made. The referee stayed strong, probably thinking about the height difference of a 6'5 striker and a 5'7 centre-back.

Five minutes later, the Italian was withdrawn for Antonio.

The game drifted in this middle period, Manchester United not good enough to create chances without committing more men forward than they had planned, and West Ham not desperate to throw bodies forward until late in the game. That being said, there was a moment where Craig Dawson tried to bend one into the top corner from 20 yards out.

Antonio improved things, but the drift was noticeable for everyone watching. There will be few who thought Flynn Downes needed to still be on the pitch for most of that half, West Ham needing some creativity and forward-thinking where Downes wound up.

This isn't to be highly critical of Downes, the 23-year-old is still adapting to Premier League football and has spent the majority of his fledgling career in a deeper role. But his second half was all a bit ?EUR~little boy lost' and the manager will take deserved criticism for keeping him on so long.

By the 77th minute, he was replaced by Fornals and soon West Ham started their late assault.

The crosses came flying in, and Manchester United stood up to them well. But there was chances, and big ones, ones that West Ham should have taken.


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In a game where Rashford was only being challenged for man of the match by Dalot at right back, so good was his defensive work, suddenly De Gea took centre stage.

The Spaniard was warmed up a fierce Antonio drive from 25 yards, one that was straight but hit with such venom that it had the goalkeeper at full stretch.

A minute later, Cresswell found Zouma just inside the box at the near post with a cross, and the flicked header had De Gea flying at full stretch to protect his goal. It was a phenomenal save, and there was more to come.

Not long after Manchester United had gone up the other end and hit the post themselves, West Ham came achingly close twice more.

The first of those came for Bowen. Fornals did excellently down the right, engaging Fernandes, brushing him off and bursting away from him into the box, tight to the right side and near the byline. He pulled it back to Bowen, who shot for the far bottom corner, but Maguire's block saved his side.

The ball scrambled away, and fell loose outside the area. From about 30 yards, Rice got onto it and hit a rasping effort, but however good it was, it wasn't better than De Gea, who again flew at full stretch to make the save, this time to the other side of his goal.

It was brilliant from the goalkeeper, cruel on West Ham and another away defeat.

There are so many ways to look at it. It must first be remembered that Manchester United are improving and a better side than the one of last season. West Ham played well and deserved a point, creating some big chances and limiting their opponents to very few.

Yet, at the same time, this is another plucky defeat by a goal or two away to a big side. Call it brave, credible, plucky, or unlucky - the result remains the same. It's certainly good to be competitive, but what is missing to turn these defeats to more? And has enough been tried to find that recipe?


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Manager Rating

David Moyes 5/10
Could be lower, but you would have to say his plan limited the hosts a lot and they found it hard to threaten too much. However, so did his own side, and the change to get Fornals on was his only attacking one and left late. It may have been the plan, but it's a plan that leaves you in a position to be punished and run out of time.



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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Couldn't stop the header, looked fine until a sudden and unlucky injury.


Thilo Kehrer
Showed more positives going forward than he has in his other right back performances, but the slack defending in his game is a huge issue. There's just obvious basic standards he is likely to fail to meet in every game.


Aaron Cresswell
Comfortable job defensively, could have been better in delivery.


Craig Dawson
Decent job without being too tested.


Kurt Zouma
In contrast, Zouma was active in stepping out and did another really good job marking Ronaldo.


Declan Rice
A class act, and another game against illustrious opposition where he was clearly the classiest player on the pitch


Tomas Soucek
A good job defensively, protected that defence well and made some important interventions. Is starting to become criminally underrated by a fanbase that has come obsessed with weaknesses and ignore his strengths.


Jarrod Bowen
Doesn't impose himself on games, and with one less attacking player, he probably needs to. He could get away with drifting out of things when Antonio was doing the donkey work and there was an extra midfielder joining attacks, but Scamacca does less of that and Downes doesn't have attacking instincts. Even Coufal's absence, which limits the overlap.


Flynn Downes
Just a quiet and ineffective game. He was better in the first half, but there was enough space to play in that the side needed someone who would exploit it. By the second half, he was just lost and floating around in a way that looked aimless.


Said Benrahma
Whilst the report is a little overly critical, Benrahma had a spark. It didn't lead to enough opportunities, but it led to more than what others offered.


Gianluca Scamacca
Didn't get into it well, but also didn't get the runners off him. Having Downes there isn't going to help Scamacca.



Substitutes

Alphonse Areola
(Replaced Fabianski 46) Did little, but did it fine.


Michail Antonio
(Replaced Scamacca 57) Probably looked better for the contrast to Scamacca, but this was a game more suited to him than the Italian. He came in and created problems on his own, which opened up the space for others.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Downes 77) Made a big, big chance and just had a forward eye for a pass.


Ben Johnson
Did not play.


Vladimir Coufal
Did not play.


Angelo Ogbonna
Did not play.


Emerson Palmieri
Did not play.


Conor Coventry
Did not play.


Manuel Lanzini
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Thilo Kehrer, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Flynn Downes, Said Benrahma, Gianluca Scamacca.

Goals: None.

Booked: Gianluca Scamacca 36 Tomas Soucek 72 Thilo Kehrer 78      .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: De Gea, Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw, Casemiro, Eriksen, Elanga (McTominay 61), Fernandes, Rashford, Ronaldo.

Subs not used: Bishop, D├║bravka, Malacia, Sancho, Pellistri, van de Beek, Garnacho.

Goals: Rashford (38).

Booked: Fernandes (90).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Declan Rice.