WEST HAM UNITED vs MANCHESTER UNITED
Under another cloud of doom after the Spurs defeat, Van Gaal took his side to West Ham in the FA Cup quarter final. This was last chance saloon and realistically looked like our best hope for silverware. Would this trip to London prove to be more successful than the last against another solid opponent?
In: Fellaini and Herrera.
Out: Schneiderlin and Mata.
- West Ham sat back but gave United space, too much space.
- Fellaini played well and there was less of the long ball up to him and more of the deep cross for him.
- United’s front three of Lingard, Rashford and Martial are proving to be very effective; careful management of them in the future is essential.
- Lingard needs to be more clinical in front of goal. With his industry, movement and reading of the game, the addition of more goals will project him to another level.
In spite of the media wet dream about this game being the last FA Cup tie at the Boleyn Ground the game started against the backdrop of a very quiet atmosphere. This was no doubt helped by how United were so dominant but was also aided by West Ham sitting back; offering United lots of space in which to operate.
West Ham’s right hand side was predictably open as would be expected with Antonio who has to work hard to curb his attacking tendencies; this allowed Martial space to operate. Perhaps Antonio felt that he would be able to cope with Martial’s speed? It added to the cluttered wing.
As a riposte to the taking advantage of this space West Ham played diagonal balls from the left to right but in Fosu-Mensah there was a hardy opponent. It represented West Ham’s main in fact only threat early in the game however.
Despite the joy United experienced early in the game there was a lack of precision up front with Lingard and Fellaini having the best chances; the former having the best one of all.
Lingard has been most effective recently and here on the right he continued to be so. Cutting inside, going outside and supporting the front line. There was one chance he set up for the onrushing Fellaini which he developed well, helped by Fosu-Mensah who overlapped effectively. Then there was his own opportunity after Rashford cut through the centre and set Lingard up, effectively on the left.
These missed chances were a concern as the half drew to a close, as we remembered West Ham’s previous game against Arsenal where things changed dramatically in the second half.
In the early phase the defensive shape was hard to pin down, sometimes a three, then sometimes a three with Carrick dropping into the right back position. This allowed Fosu-Mensah to push forward and unlike the first half here he stayed very narrow.
Then after 54 minutes, Boom! This was a great goal and an example of the speed of thought and connection between Martial and Rashford which appears to be developing well. It started with Herrera closing the inbound Antonio down causing him to give ball away. The scorer Rashford was found in space with a ball from Martial. The Mancunian dazzled Tomkins and picked his spot majestically.
The game became stretched very quickly as West Ham’s weight of ‘history’ hit them and they realised they were at risk of going out of the cup in their last FA Cup game on this ground. It was pleasing to see how United were pressing but they were doing it efficiently. They continued an forward trajectory as they attacked with pace, helped by West Ham certainly allowing them to gather speed with their deep lying positioning. United also played lots of through balls which the goalkeeper Randolph read well. This was fine, what was pleasing was the more direct forward passes.
Then United scored again, Boom! United took a further grip on the game with a goal by Fellaini, who did well to control it into the net from close range. This was as a great a watch as his part in heading the cross initially, his part in the build-up ie holding the West Ham player up for Lingard’s cross and then how he moved across the box was all well considered. 67 minutes played 2-0.
Then after 68 minutes a substitution; Rojo came off for Valencia with Fosu-Mensah moving to the left to accommodate Valencia. This was followed by a further substitution when Schneiderlin replaced Herrera on 76 minutes. United became more cautious and so surrendered some of the initiative. West Ham had already replaced the ineffective Lanzini with Emenike after 74 minutes to get more bodies into forward areas.
As West Ham crept back into the game De Gea came into his own, making a particularly great save from a West Ham corner. However, the following corner saw a goal from West Ham as Carroll lost his marker Smalling, moved round the back and headed to Tomkins who had a free moment to head in. After 79 minutes 1-2
As the end approached De Gea made two further great saves whilst a late substitution in injury time which saw the return of Rooney after a long injury lay off coming on for Rashford.
Final score, West Ham United 1 – 2 Manchester United
This was a great result in a tense match. The first match showed what United needed to do in the replay and to an extent they did it in this game. Certainly West Ham helped matters by how much space they gave United as well as the lack of service they gave Carroll.
The continuing development of the youngsters, again, is a bonus and so is the developing relationship between Martial and Rashford. They do however need to work together more and take more of their chances. As does Lingard who needs to be more effective and clinical in front of goal; if he becomes more clinical what a front line this will be.
Another positive is how Fosu-Mensah is playing, the speed but also the sense of anticipation he shows and his reading of the game is good.
Perhaps we will all laugh, when in a few years’ time we look back at this season after an FA Cup victory and recall how it saved Van Gaal’s United career and showed similarities with Sir Alex’s own career trajectory! Who knows?