SWITZERLAND. SEPTEMBER 23 – A woeful Manchester United fell to a 2-0 defeat in the hands of West Ham United on Sunday.
Not even 60 seconds had passed when Andriy Yarmolenko, deep inside West Ham United’s half, produced his first backheel of the day, sending the ball spinning out of the reach of a flailing Manchester United forward and triggering the first attack for his side.
It was a sign of things to come for West Ham, a team who had no fear and, increasingly, no reason to hold back against a United side lacking any sort of invention, menace or purpose. The great heavyweights of the Premier League had no punches to throw, instead allowing West Ham to grow in confidence, control the match and eventually score twice without reply.
Marshalled by the excellent Mark Noble in midfield, Manuel Pellegrini’s side were measured for the most part and incisive in the key moments. Yarmolenko’s drilled effort gave them a deserved lead, before Aaron Creswell’s free-kick swirled into David de Gea’s top corner. At the other end, Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna were as rugged in defence as United were toothless in attack.
Make that six matches without defeat for West Ham. There is a balance to this side which United lack, a combination of flair and solidity that will serve them well in their push for the European places, as long as they remain consistent.
“I’m very happy about all of today,” Pellegrini said. “The way we played. I always talk with the players that we must have the mentality to play the same way we work during the week. It doesn’t matter if we play United or against every big team. We must trust that we are able to beat them.”
As aesthetically pleasing as the goals were – Cresswell’s free-kick in particular – West Ham will be just as encouraged by their dominance of general play. This was no smash and grab against a bigger opponent. In fact, it felt more like a routine home victory against a lesser side.
As United appeared more and more pedestrian, West Ham were visibly buoyed. The flow of the game meant that, by the time Yarmolenko’s crisp strike found the corner, after an artful flick by Felipe Anderson, there were few in the London Stadium who could begrudge the home side their lead.
Before that, United’s one chance fell to Marcus Rashford, twinkling down the left wing and darting towards goal. He hesitated at the key moment, though, allowing Declan Rice to shut down the attack.
There had to be a reaction from United after the break and there was a small improvement, of sorts. Andreas Pereira picked out Juan Mata at the back post, where the Spaniard poked his effort wide. Rashford looked more dangerous, too, running in behind as United showed urgency for the first time.
West Ham deserved all three points from this game. A solid performance sprinkled with moments of quality.
Manchester United were poor and lacked energy or any real desire for long spells of the game.