Premier League
Manchester United  3-0 West Ham United 

Saturday, 3rd February 2024
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham were routinely beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford this Sunday afternoon, in a performance that was neater on the ball but entirely ineffective in attack and too easy to hurt in defence.

A first-half Hojlund goal was followed by two for Garnacho in a second half that just longed to end as The Hammers accepted their fate. It was only a second league defeat in 12 games, but David Moyes and his team have yet to win a game in 2024.

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In what was a huge game in the race for European football, the mixture of verve and discipline that had seen Moyes's side beat Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham in December all but disappeared.

There were two changes from the side that struggled to a midweek draw with Bournemouth. Vladimir Coufal was back from suspension for Kalvin Phillips, moving Johnson into a right-wing role, and Nayef Aguerd returned into the centre of defence, displacing Konstantonos Mavropanos.

On a windy day, the first half was a level affair, with the one chance taken all that separated the teams, both in quality of play and the scoreline.

Kudus was the spark once more, making inroads with his ability to turn a man with his back to goal and drive forward, but it was a game between two teams who seemed to be as comfortable off the ball as they were on it.

It was far from the typical, expected performance of Manchester United at home. They did not commit forward with wilful abandon, and worked hard to get men behind the ball quickly when possession was lost. They even took large portions of the half sat in their own half in a disciplined shape, almost allowing West Ham to have safe possession to try and work something from.

The first big chance of the game came just after 10 minutes had passed as The Hammers threatened from a corner. The chance was far from clear, and Alvarez knew nothing about it as Ward-Prowse curled a corner from the right away from goal, lined up with the near post, some eight yards out as Soucek rose.

His header was met only at a glance, but with the power to force it into the six-yard-box, where it ricocheted off the chest of Alvarez and flew at goal, forcing a great reaction save on the stretch from Onana in the Manchester United goal.

The home side were slow to get into gear, but their first real foray into the box caused much more damage than it first seemed. Zouma did well to tackle Rashford as the England international forces his way into the box, but collided with Areola in making the challenge.

It didn't look much of a concern at all as the French goalkeeper made a great save to deny Fernandes from the edge of the box, at near-full stretch to deny the curling effort. But when Areola did not re-emerge after the break, subbed off as a precaution, it was clear that the goalkeeper had been left in suffering as the half wore on.

If there was nothing else happening to entertain the fans, it was at least a joy to see Ben Johnson playing with a smile. He looked like a child who begs his Under Nines coach to play him up front all season and then finally gets a game out of defence.

Unfortunately, his smile was all there was to smile about, and it was soon wiped from his face as the home side took the lead. It came from a real nothing period of play as West Ham passed out poorly from the back. Alvarez and Bowen lost it in the right, but a chipped ball towards the area was harmless.

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That was how it seemed, until Zouma headed down into a central area. Casemiro and Ward-Prowse ran for the loose ball, but whilst the West Ham midfielder just tried to get his body across and protect it, Casemiro was more committed, throwing himself into a challenge and poking it forward to Hojlund.

The Danish striker has not had it easy in the Premier League this season, but things are starting to click. He quickly rolled it around one defender on the edge of the box, before picking his spot and driving it low into the bottom corner to Areola's right, opening the scoring and giving his side the lead.

It was disappointing for The Hammers, but the goal did signal the hosts to sit off, and West Ham enjoyed large spells of possession and control of the game. The passing was a touch slow, but their hosts had positioned 11 behind the ball, and it was very much like watching a David Moyes Manchester United playing against a David Moyes West Ham United.

There were moments to raise some excitement, here and there. A Johnson shot from 25 yards that was easily saved, a Kudus header that ended up too weak, and the odd corner where a West Ham head was again first to it, but could find nothing conclusive with the touch.

For the crowd that, apparently, appreciate passing and performance over points and wins, West Ham were playing nicely. They went in a goal down at the break.

Fabianski replaced Areola at half-time, and West Ham went back to searching for a way into the game. They could have done just that inside the first ten minutes, but not only wasted a huge opportunity, they also allowed Ten Hag's side to go straight up the other end and extend their lead.

Emerson did fantastically to steal the ball from Maguire, 10 yards or so inside the Manchester United half. He sprinted forward, driving into the top left corner of the box, and looked for who to square to.
He was right to look, Bowen had been a little ahead of him and in space when the left back had stolen the ball, but the striker never made the run into the box to demand the pass.

By the time Bowen had laboured into the area, Emerson had been forced to make the decision to go alone, and it was clear this was an adjustment to him. He let the ball drift a little off the line it had been on, and when he took his shot, could only sky a hopeless effort that threatened nothing.

Had Bowen made the run, he would have been free in the centre of the area, and Emerson could have squared. The full back still should have finished much better, and he could be more decisive in and around the area, but the striker let him down.

From the goal kick, the hosts flew forward, Dalot driving into the West Ham half with the ball and playing a poor square pass. Fortunately for him, the pass was bad enough that it wrong-footed Alvarez, who fell as he tried to adjust, instead letting the ball roll wide to Fernandes.

He took it inside, looked up and curled a pass to the right side of the box for Garnacho. If it wasn't obvious enough that West Ham's luck wasn't with them today, the Argentine cut onto his left, hit a shot that seemed destined for Fabianski's hands, but the effort hit Alvarez - not his finest 20 seconds - inside the six-yard box and flew past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

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The Hammers didn't give in from here, but they were hardly worth watching, either. Emerson had another good chance, this time created by good work from Ward-Prowse down the left, but hit a tame shot at the goalkeeper.

Soon, Ben Johnson was playing down the left wing and Kudus was back on the right, Moyes hoping the shuffle could inspire more from his talisman, but the Ghanaian couldn't find enough to lift the side.

The big chance, that one teams trailing always get, came after some fantastic work in midfield by Alvarez. After turning a man in midfield, the Mexican moved into a bit of space and then clipped a perfect pass over the Manchester United defence that was perfectly taken down by Bowen on the chest.

He pushed it forwards and drove into the box, but moving slightly to his right meant he had to take the chance with his weaker foot. He took time to set himself, and that delay gave Dalot the chance to steam in and make a fantastic block.

Phillips and Cornet were thrown on for the remaining 20 minutes, replacing Coufal and Soucek as Johnson was moved back to right back, but there was nothing left in the game for The Hammers.

Half a chance flew at Zouma after a scuffed corner shot was hit right at him, but the defender couldn't direct the moving ball at goal. The Frenchman was vital minutes later as he beat Fernandes to a loose ball in the box and stopped a big chance, but it was with five minutes left that the game was ended.

And, once again, it was a rusty Kalvin Phillips who got exposed on the ball. This time, he was just inside his own half when he was loose and lackadaisical enough for Scott McTominay to steal in and nick it off his toes.

The Scottish midfield drove forward, slotted it in front of Garnacho on the right side of the box, and the Argentine got his second as he hit low across goal and into the far corner.

Yes, West Ham had more shots than the home side. 22 at Old Trafford for West Ham represents a sad, limited success compared to many visits in years gone by. Yes, West Ham also doubled the xG of their hosts. But half-chances, shots in good positions ruined by bad balls, poor choices and a lack of running support in forward areas mean the eye test won't see those numbers passing muster.

Even with the good chances we had, the incredibly poor execution of choices of players are part of a performance, and these parts were awful. Ironically, for a manager under pressure for not impressing in the middle third and with possession, but often succeeding in both areas, this was a game where the side were bad in both final thirds.

And now it's February, with no wins in the new year, and Arsenal next to come, and a transfer window that left many angered. It's never easy.

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Manager's Rating

David Moyes 7/10: His team were fine until the parts that mattered, and those parts were not poor due to tactical errors or bad picks by the manager, but bad decisions and/or execution by the players. Considering what he has at his disposal, what changes is he to make? He's being letdown by the recruitment, and punished by fans for failing to meet expectations they never had prior to Moyes.

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Player Ratings

Alphonse Areola
Couple of good saves in the first half, especially impressive because he was hurt early and made saves after that, and still needed to be withdrawn at half-time.

Vladimir Coufal
Rashford was quiet, and whilst that wasn't notably down to Coufal, the job was done defensively on that side. But he didn't make a massive contribution at either end of the pitch.

Emerson Palmieri
Poor in both boxes, and he is just much lesser as a player without Paqueta. It's not really a good enough excuse for how below-par his performances have been since the Brazilian has been out.

Kurt Zouma
Made some big challenges and was aware defensively, but somewhat let down by his teammates.

Nayef Aguerd
The defence looked better for his return, including Zouma looking much better on the right and the use of the ball improving. But the left-side of the defence was exposed on two goals, and the Moroccan wasn't strong on the first goal, either.

Edson Alvarez
He was very unfortunate for the second goal, but his return into midfield has definitely improved the use of the ball in the team and the midfield in general. He's good under pressure, and a better forward passer than he's given credit for.

Tomas Soucek
Lost in the shuffle once more in midfield. He has definitely simplified what he does on the ball and gets involved a bit less in passing it around, but he seems to be in the team at the moment by virtue of winning some headers.

Ben Johnson
Some will rate him highly due to low expectations, and he wasn't bad by any means. He just wasn't that good, either. It feels like he has never put a good cross into the box, and he gets into good positions there often.

James Ward-Prowse
Good moments and bad moments. Should have done better on the first goal, even if you can understand what he was trying to do. It needed firmer. And he created good chances from set-pieces, and one for Emerson down the left.

Mohammed Kudus
Any spark really was from him. Unfortunately, there is only one of him, as he was needed deep enough to start moves and drive out from defensive positions, but also higher up to benefit from his own work.

Jarrod Bowen
Looked lost. He isn't going to damage good defences too often as he learns the role, he isn't the one-man wrecking ball that Antonio is. He needs to be one of many threats, and that isn't the case without Paqueta as it is really left up to him, Kudus and set-pieces.


Lukasz Fabianski
(Replaced Areola, 46) Not much to say for him, he was beaten by two shots he couldn't stop.

Kalvin Phillips
(Replaced Coufal, 71) Looks like a player coming back from an injury who has never played Premier League football before. The talent is there when he is given time, but he looks shocked by the pace of it all and is making mistakes under pressure.

Maxwel Cornet
(Replaced Soucek, 71) As for Cornet, he is now in the spare part role that Fornals and Benrahma lost their way in. He doesn't look like he can offer much more from the bench, and it's possible his weaknesses were hidden by Dyche's use of him at Burnley. Possibly needs a run up front, as he's not making much of his time on the wing and Bowen might be better used there.

Aaron Cresswell
Did not play.

Oliver Scarles
Did not play.

Konstantonis Mavropanos
Did not play.

Angelo Ogbonna
Did not play.

Danny Ings
Did not play.

Divin Mubama
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Kurt Zouma, Nayef Aguerd, Edson Alvarez, Tomas Soucek, Ben Johnson, James Ward-Prowse, Mohammed Kudus, Jarrod Bowen.

Goals: None.

Booked: Tomas Soucek 0          .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United : Onana, Dalot, Maguire, Martinez (Varane 70), Shaw (Lindelof 88), Casemiro, Mainoo (McTominay 64), Garnacho, Fernandes, Rashford, Hojlund (Antony 88).

Subs not used: .

Goals: Hojlund (24), Garnacho (49, 85).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Andy Madley.

Attendance: 73,612.

Man of the Match: .