Premier League
West Ham United 2 Manchester United 0

Sunday, 22nd September 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham United cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win on a wet Sunday afternoon as Manuel Pellegrini's men controlled visitors Manchester United.

In what seemed the biggest test so far of the confidence around the club, the Irons didn't ever look like disappointing, with their once illustrious visitors cast aside by a side not near their best.

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Pellegrini was forced into two changes, one from the red card picked up by Arthur Masuaku last time out against Villa, and the other due to a slight injury picked up by Manuel Lanzini in the week. In came Aaron Cresswell and Pablo Fornals.

The first half itself could be kindly described as cagey, with the two teams looking wary of any counter attack and keeping their solidity to stop any gaps in transition.

The home side did make sure they started with early pressure at the front, Haller and Fornals working hard when Matic or Maguire dallied bringing the ball out of defence.

That was all really to entertain a watching fan early on, that and the curiosity of seeing Yarmolenko and Anderson swapping flanks on occasion, and the more bizarre sight of Man United's full backs having a period on changed sides.

Whether it was the wet pitch, nerves or just two equally matched sides, there were no openings coming easily. Matic's 30 yard drive straight into Fabianski's arms was the first shot at all, a harmless long ranger after 14 minutes quite the summation of the early stages.

In these quiet games, a sudden turn of pace can change things. As Rashford slipped past Diop down the West Ham right and sprinted towards the area and Fabianski, that moment looked to be coming. The intervention in the box from Declan Rice was crucial, taking the ball off the England forward's foot as he was bearing down on goal.

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That that moment stands out in the first half report shows how little threat either side was making. The away side had a ten minute period controlling the ball without creating, and then the pendulum swung to give the home side the same kind of concerted pressure for the next ten.

With the minutes of the first half ticking away painfully slow, the first opening in the box brought the crowd alive and changed the game.

Dalliance on the ball from Fredericks and Yarmolenko dragged Noble over to the right, not for the first time coming to take control of a move that was fading away.

This time, he turned inside and Anderson had drifted over. 25 yards from goal, he had been left alone, but took a moment to turn a pass from the captain round the corner and into the run of Yarmolenko in the box. He took a touch of control to take it from the air and away from Maguire, onto his left foot, then stretched to reach and fire the ball beyond De Gea and into the far corner for an opening goal that didn't feel like coming.

It was the first real moment of significance at all, and it was the only one that mattered as Pellegrini's men saw out an uneventful next few minutes of the half to go in at the break a goal to the good.

The team talk might well have been around how we could improve to match what surely must have been a better Manchester United performance second half.

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The visitors started on the front foot. Three minutes after the restart, they should have scored. James got in down the right and delivered a lovely ball across the face of goal, but Mata either couldn't or just didn't get his foot around it at the back post, an open goal left begging as it dribbled wide.

That opening foray looked to set the tone, but really it was the efforts of a team flattering to deceive. 15 minutes later, Marcus Rashford limped off injured and the back four was faced with a makeshift striker first in Lingard, then in Dan James.

But it wasn't really that that suddenly blunted their edge. Frankly, the West Ham defence were comfortable throughout, the midfield in control and the attack starting to find space.

Again, it was a 45 minutes without fire or major incident. West Ham were not brilliant, but they were also comfortably the better side. Noble was in control of proceedings, both taking charge on the ball and taking charge of the players around him. The influence he has as a captain has been so obvious since his return to the side, but it shouldn't obscure his performances as midfielder, which have been excellent.

Anderson too was having a comfortable day, to the point where he maybe began taking it too easy. He may be disappointed not to have done more from a tight angle, instead shooting directly at De Gea after a good move on the right side of goal.

But a one-goal lead is still a quick moment from disappearing, and had Maguire taken an easy chance, the game could have been very different. Having won a header from a floated corner, the ball then dropped back to him on the edge of the six yard box. He stepped onto it, placed it with the side of his foot but found Fabianski more than equal to it.

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Pellegrini reacted, taking Anderson off and bringing Wilshere on for a little more security in the middle of the pitch.

What it did was see the very hardworking Fornals cover down a left hand side that was starting to be targeted, and bring the dribbling of Wilshere into the middle. He quickly won a free kick in a dangerous position that Cresswell hit well, but just off target.

The lead remained slender, and again a sudden move saw danger. Manchester United were moving it forward fast, looking for the pace of Dan James. He nearly forced a breakthrough, slid in behind but beaten to the ball in the area by Fabianski.

From there, the ball bounced to Jesse Lingard, but Yarmolenko threw himself in front of the shot to stop any sniff of an equaliser. It was a vital intervention from a man who appears to come alive in the box, although not usually in front of his own.

As Fredericks was forced off injured, it got into the last ten minutes and the nerves of even the calmest West Ham fan would have started to make themselves known.

Thankfully, Aaron Cresswell was on hand to settle them.

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Having found his range with his first free kick, the left back stepped up after a Noble charge forward earned a foul in dangerous territory.

To the right of goal, Cresswell stroked the ball beautifully into the corner with a classic left-footers free kick, too well aimed and too well hit for the despairing dive of De Gea, who could only help it on its way into the back of the net.

Five minutes remained, but a weak Manchester United team were never going to break this defence two times. They had had snap moments, but were comfortably managed by West Ham throughout the game.

This is a West Ham side with an improved professionalism. This West Ham side was not at their best, but smarter and more in charge of the way a game flows than they were last year. Where last year it seemed Pellegrini's side must throw everything at the wall to score goals, they can now balance the play and their needs across the pitch, whilst still threatening.

It led them to their fourth consecutive clean sheet, with no goal conceded in over eight hours of football and a well deserved win in a dominant performance where they never needed to move out of second gear.

What it did do was show the early optimism around the club might well be justified. In the past, that confidence was just waiting to be exposed and ruined, but this game could well be a sign that there is a control here not evident for a long time.

Is this the big club mentality that Manuel Pellegrini has talked about? It certainly feels different. A place in the top four (at full time) was the reward.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Felt unthreatened yet also had some big moments. Which is what you want, a goalkeeper who comes up good in the moments heís needed.


Ryan Fredericks
Was threatened by Jamesís pace and looked uncomfortable with it. Frustrating attacking display, dallying on the ball so often and some poor crosses. Sometimes dribbles like a man who thinks heís lost the ball.


Aaron Cresswell
Did give a little too much space away down the left at times, but generally made good blocks and tackled well. Made sure he was always up in support, though he used the ball quite poorly. Then the freekicks came, and Cresswell settled the game with a glorious swing of his boot. Well deserved for a much maligned figure.


Issa Diop
Some really good moments in the game, but it was a calm one. Can be very thankful for the work of Rice, who covered his big error when Rashford slipped behind him. Generally in control though.


Angelo Ogbonna
Really daft yellow, although he had to take the man once he committed. Calm and confident defensively, left behind by pace a couple times.


Declan Rice
Frankly, it was too easy a game for Rice to really need to flourish, but that tackle on Rashford was really fantastic positional play and defensive awareness. Otherwise, Man United wanted to get the ball through midfield very quick and away from Rice. Doesnít give the ball away.


Mark Noble
Captain Fantastic. Multiple times he went and took over the play on the right when Yarmolenko and Fredericks were stuttering. His involvement made the first goal happen, won the freekick for the second. Does the ugly stuff too, whether it be getting into tackles or screaming at the players around him.


Felipe Anderson
Made the first goal with his nonchalance, and had the brains to drift off the left hand side and into the middle when things got bogged down on the right. A surprising withdrawal, although it starts to look now like he may have been rested! Oozes class, but worked especially hard defensively too.


Andriy Yarmolenko
Moments win matches, and he had two of the biggest ones. First, wrapping his foot around a ball that looked to be getting away and scoring the only chance of the first half. Then his block on Lingard keeps it at 1-0. In cagey games, those kind of moments are golden, even if some of his overall play was rusty.


Pablo Fornals
He didnít really make big contributions, but his influence on the game was in his hard work all over. He did the yards in the middle to give Noble an easier game, made up ground to get to Haller, got across the width of the pitch in attacks too. That off the ball play is encouraging, as the sharpness will come on it.


Sebastien Haller
Through no fault of his own, he wasnít a huge threat. However, he managed to keep the defenders occupied, dealing with and giving back some physical stuff, whilst being an outlet. Winning nine aerials in a game against Harry Maguire is impressive.



Substitutes

Jack Wilshere
(Replaced Anderson) A useful substitute cameo, with good forward running and nice links between the midfield and attack. Clearly sharper on the ball than current Fornals, but would not have done his running.


Pablo Zabaleta
(Replaced Fredericks) Untested, really. Did his job on the odd occasion he was needed.


Robert Snodgrass
(Replaced Yarmolenko) Came on, ran around, saw out the game in his six minutes. Job done.


Roberto Jimemez Gago
Did not play.


Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.


Carlos Sanchez
Did not play.


Albian Ajeti
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell , Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Pablo Fornals, Sebastien Haller .

Goals: Andriy Yarmolenko 44 Aaron Cresswell 84                .

Booked: Angelo Ogbonna  Mark Noble         .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Young, Matic (Fred 71), McTominay, Mata (Gomes 81), Pereira, James, Rashford (Lingard 61).

Subs not used: Romero, Rojo, Tuanzebe, Chong.

Goals: .

Booked: Mata, Young.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Attendance: 59,936.

Man of the Match: Andriy Yarmolenko.