Manchester United beat West Ham United 2-0 in the first meeting between the two sides at the London Stadium in the Premier League on Monday evening. A red card for Sofiane Feghouli was a big blow for the home side, but Juan Mata took the lead for United in the 63rd minute of the match with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring his 18th goal of the season in the 78th minute making it six wins in a row for Jose Mourinho’s who are on a thirteen match unbeaten run at this stage of the season. Onwards and upwards.
Jose Mourinho made five changes to his side which beat Middlesbrough 2-1 at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo replacing Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, Matteo Darmian replacing Daley Blind, Michael Carrick replacing Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard replacing Anthony Martial. United will be looking to earn a sixth win in the Premier League in a row against the Hammers, closing the gap with the teams above them who have already played on Monday afternoon. United started the match well, cool and calm in possession looking for a way to take the lead, which is what will be expected.
The Hammers could have had something from the match early on with United closing down Dimitri Payet, which allowed Manuel Lanzini to get a shot on goal, which was off target, but saved by David De Gea, who made his 250th appearance for United, giving a corner to the home side, which amounted to nothing. In the 15th minute of the match, Sofiane Feghouli was sent off for a challenge on Phil Jones, which was unfair, but United don’t make the decisions, the referee does. Moments later, Jesse Lingard dispossessed Cheikhou Kouyaté, who went down on the challenge, which was fair with Lingard winning the ball.
United had been on top of the Hammers for much of the half, but the home side had registered more chances on goal, despite them not really being all that threatening to make a difference in the match. The red card changed the course of the match. With ten minutes to go before the end of the first half, United got their first attempt on goal, which was another great save by Darren Randolph and United were a fraction of a millimetre away from scoring. United were the team in the majority of possession on the ball with the Hammers doing all they could to stop United from taking the lead, but there was plenty of time before the end of the half.
In the 42nd minute of the match, Matteo Darmian was booked for a challenge on Michail Antonio, which may have been harsh, but will stand. United were still playing well, despite registering the least chances in the match. De Gea made another top save to deny the Hammers from scoring in the latter minutes of the half. United needed to find their momentum and Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini were told to warm up in the dying minutes of the half with the manager looking at changes to make to make his team better in the second half. It was all level at the end of the half with all left to play for.
At the start of the second half, Juan Mata replaced Darmian with Michael Carrick playing as a central defender and Marcos Rojo playing at left-back for the remainder of the match. Within five minutes of the half, United were playing well again. Angelo Ogbonna was lucky to stay on the pitch after a challenge on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, earning a yellow card and United a free-kick, which amounted to nothing. United then gave away a free-kick in their own final third, with the Hammers pressuring United with Antonio heading wide of the goal. United still had a lot to do in order to take all three points away for the sixth time in a row this season.
In the 58th minute of the match Marcus Rashford replaced Lingard with United looking to break the Hammers with pace on the attack, which has worked before. The Hammers could have taken the lead if it was not for De Gea and Antonio’s poor finish, which was lucky for United, who need to find something to get the better of the resurgent home side. Three points is all that matters, but with the Hammers only having ten men, they did, at times, look the better side. In the 63rd minute, Rashford held up the ball well in the Hammers box, crossing to Juan Mata who broke the deadlock. United then brought on Chris Smalling for Mkhitaryan.
United looked a lot better since the arrival of Mata at the start of the second half, more lively on the ball and more determined to get something from the match. Rashford added some calmness and pace on the attack as he always looks unfazed by it all. Smalling was a tactical substitution to quell the threat of Andy Carroll, who came on in the last twenty minutes for the home side. United had the win in the bag, just needed to keep hold of the lead, or extend it. Paul Pogba, a player who is labelled as not good enough by the ABU’s, also a player showing his skills at United, nearly put United 2-0 up, but his effort was wide in the 75th minute of the match.
United could have doubled their lead again through Rashford, whose shot was stopped by Randolph, but the ball got past him, hit the bar and stopped just short of the line. United then doubled the lead through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored his 18th goal of the season, his thirteenth in the Premier League and his first for 2017. United had this game in the bag. The Swede may have been offside, but his goal on New Year’s Eve should have stood, this makes up for that one. Not United’s fault the match officials are not up to the job they are meant to be doing. United, through Ander Herrera, could have scored another. The Hammers just don’t seem to be trying.
United may have lost the last match at Upton Park, but they have won the first match at the London Stadium. Marcus Rashford was named the Man of the Match by Gary Neville on Sky Sports. United have won six matches in a row in the Premier League, cutting the lead of those above them, keeping in with a chance of jumping into the top four. Reading is United’s next opposition in the Emirates FA Cup, with United then facing Hull City in the EFL Cup, before Liverpool come to Old Trafford on the 15th January, which will be long-awaited.
Goals: Juan Mata 63′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 78′
Assists: Marcus Rashford 63′, Ander Herrera 78′
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian (Mata 46′); Carrick, Herrera; Mkhitaryan (Smalling 65′), Pogba, Lingard (Rashford 58′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Martial, Young, Fellaini
Bookings: Matteo Darmian 42′, Antonio Valencia 76′