Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United completed a successful comeback against West Ham at the London Stadium, as they extended their unbeaten away record to 29 Premier League matches.
The hosts were without the attacking presence of the suspended Michail Antonio and were feeling fatigued from the Thursday evening Europa League fixtures, but they did well to remain in the game and were unlucky to not walk away with a point. Meanwhile, the visitors typically had to go a goal down to get the team going and to take their performance and urgency levels up by a few notches.
Once again, the Red Devils had a slow start to the match and were not playing with a high intensity, allowing the hosts to enjoy some periods on the ball and dangerous phases in their own third of the pitch. Unsurprisingly, West Ham took the lead through Said Benrahma, which resulted in Manchester United waking up instantly as they equalised in just a matter of minutes through striker Cristiano Ronaldo.
The individual moments from Jesse Lingard and David de Gea helped the side to achieve the victory in the last ten minutes, as the former scored a sublime goal in the 89th minute whilst the latter saved a crucial penalty in the 95th minute. Although it looked like Declan Rice was stepping up to take the penalty, Mark Noble came on from the bench to take it, who saw his attempt saved by the Spaniard.
The Hammers remain in eighth place and will be aiming to achieve consistency and quality whilst balancing out the Premier League and Europa League fixtures. On the other hand, Manchester United sit patiently in third place, with both Chelsea and Liverpool above them on goal difference.
With no further ado, here are the three things we learnt about the Red Devils from West Ham vs. Manchester United.
Solskjaer spot on with timing of substitutions
Solskjaer is often criticised for his in-game management and his inability to tactically change the game around when required. Nevertheless, he brought on Lingard and Jadon Sancho at the right time, to add final third quality, movement, and pace, as Paul Pogba looked quite tired after the hour mark and Mason Greenwood was proving to be ineffective following the half-time break.
On top of that, Nemanja Matic’s arrival for Fred could not have been timed better, as the Serbian international produced a line-breaking pass to Lingard, who went on to cut onto his favourite foot and strike the ball into the far corner of the net. Overall, it’s only fair to credit Solskjaer when his tactical changes helped the side to a win, as the players are mostly applauded and not the manager.
Raphael Varane implements his quality into the backline
The focus has been on Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho as the exciting attacking signings of the summer but Raphael Varane has slotted into the centre of defence like a glove and has improved the team on and off the ball. Winning four out of four ground duels, as well as completing 93.5% of his attempted passes, the Frenchman is proving himself as the real deal.
Despite both Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw not performing to their usual standards so far this season defensively, Varane has stepped in and instantly helped a side that does not hold the presence of a world class holding midfielder. Within a week, the midfield/attack of Young Boys and West Ham have been able to advance down the Manchester United flank covered by Shaw and Maguire, though, Varane has been able to limit the opposition’s chances through his ability to read the game and intelligence.
Fred/McTominay pivot can only work if the attackers are clinical and ruthless
Manchester United have shown great difficulties in dominating games as well as playing a certain style of play at a high tempo, especially with both Fred and Scott McTominay in the middle of the pitch. Though, the midfield pair are the most effective pivot with how they compliment one another and how they provide the balance in matches where the opposition are dangerous on the counter.
Although the duo in midfield are not able to dictate and control matches, if they are able to nullify the opposition’s attack and constantly help the side to progress the ball, their efforts and hard work will be appreciated. However we saw against West Ham that the pressure then rises on the attackers to be clinical and ruthless in the final third, as Manchester United leave themselves high up the pitch and quite open in the midfield area, resulting the opponents to always have a couple of chances to be successful in scoring on the break.
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