Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw with West Ham on Wednesday night, as the visitors left with a well deserved point to mathematically confirm their place in next season’s Premier League.
A first half dominated by United, but one where they failed to properly test Lukas Fabianski, would go West Ham’s way in comical fashion. Paul Pogba – for fear of his life – inexplicably handballed in the box when the ball was struck towards him from 20 yards, with Michail Antonio tucking the spot kick beyond David de Gea.
It took only six minutes for the hosts to strike back through their 18-year-old wonderkid, as Mason Greenwood fired low beyond Fabianski in his trademark fashion.
Most expected a United onslaught to follow, but tired legs and a lack of fluidity meant the Hammers were mostly untroubled, with the visitors earning a well deserved point.
Key Talking Point
Have there been distinct improvements in United’s all round play of late? Without doubt. They’ve looked a bit leggy in recent outings but there is far more fluidity in the final third where they’re zipping the ball about with more purpose and pace.
That first half showing demonstrated that, but those tired legs of theirs had a say too. It was all too laboured and unimaginative. Yet, with exciting forwards in their ranks – namely Greenwood – they’ve always got an opportunity to score at any time.
Nonetheless, fatigue is clearly catching up with this United side, who look completely drained. As long as they avoided defeat on Wednesday they would head to Leicester on the final day still aiming to avoid defeat again, but you worry for their fitness levels at the minute. The Foxes will be looking on with eager eyes at their tiring opponents.
Starting XI: De Gea (7); Fosu-Mensah (5), Lindelof (5), Maguire (6), Williams (6); Pogba (5), Matic (7*), Fernandes (6); Greenwood (7), Martial (6), Rashford (6).
Substitutes: Wan-Bissaka (7), Ighalo (5).
Since the restart Nemanja Matic has arguably been United’s best player, and in an underwhelming display on Wednesday he just about gets the nod once more.
Playing the ball forward – yes, actually – and looking composed in possession has ignited an almighty turnaround. By no means outstanding at Old Trafford, but he still did his part effectively.
Key Talking Point
‘What’s happened to [insert club here]’ generally acts as the opening to a derogatory or critical statement. Even more so when said club is West Ham, but it’s been far from that in recent weeks, barring a couple of dodgy results here and there.
A willingness to run around, press the ball at the right time and break forward is something nobody has become accustomed to seeing with the Irons of late. But they’re actually doing that. Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen have been great signings, recruitment being another facet of West Ham’s recent history that has gone against the grain with those January additions.
There is a sudden emergence of steel and desire in this side, which you could have forgiven for not turning up at Old Trafford given they had all-but assured their top flight status. Moyes looks like he’s making progress with this side, and the positives changes may see him get a good crack at the transfer window.
Starting XI: Fabianski (7); Johnson (7), Diop (7), Ogbonna (7), Cresswell (6); Noble (6), Rice (8), Bowen (8*), Soucek (7), Fornals (6); Antonio (7).
Substitutes: Haller (5), Masuaku (5) Yarmolenko (N/A).
It’s always the worry when a player makes the jump up from the second tier to the Premier League that, quite simply, they won’t be good enough.
Jarrod Bowen has evaded such pre-conceptions to the point where he is now among the best players in the Irons’ squad. Versatility across the front line is rare in someone his age, never looking flustered or short on confidence. A real talent.
Both sides are in action on Sunday for the final round of league fixtures. West Ham host Aston Villa, while United travel to Leicester.