Marcus Rashford’s 100th goal for Manchester United proved to be enough for Erik ten Hag’s side at Old Trafford as they moved up to fifth in the Premier League with a narrow 1-0 victory over West Ham.
Antony failed to make United’s matchday squad due to injury, but Cristiano Ronaldo was restored to the starting line-up, and early on the hosts showed their attacking intent, while West Ham’s game plan was to try and hit the home side on the counter-attack.
It was United though that took the lead shortly before the break, as Rashford met Christian Eriksen’s teasing cross from the right with a bullet header that flew past Lukasz Fabianski in the Hammers’ goal. The strike brought up his century for the club on his 318th appearance.
With time running out, the visitors tried everything to search for a valuable equaliser and the home side had to rely on David de Gea to keep the scores level as the Spaniard made a superb save from Kurt Zouma’s header to keep his side ahead.
United then came close to adding a second in the 86th minute as Fred’s header from Scott McTominay’s cross came back off the far post.
De Gea was called into action once again in the third minute of stoppage time, as he made a diving save to stop Declan Rice’s long-range strike from finding the top corner. Seconds later, the final whistle sounded and Ten Hag’s side managed to hold on to secure another important home win.
TALKING POINT – NOT PRETTY, BUT UNITED GET ACROSS THE LINE
Tonight’s performance from Manchester United was certainly not one that you’d look back on in years to come and call vintage. The better word to describe it was effective, and in the end they held on to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight matches (W6, D2).
One takeaway from tonight’s match was that the performance of Eriksen in midfield once again proved to be important for the team. Despite his deeper role, it is clear that he provides the direct link between defence and attack in transitions, and his key passing cannot be underestimated.
De Gea also pulled out the stops to ensure another Old Trafford win for his side, with three outstanding saves in the final 20 minutes to deny Antonio, Zouma and Rice respectively for West Ham. There also has to be an honourable mention for United’s central defensive partnership, as both Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez had a great game.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – DIOGO DALOT
The 23-year-old Portuguese right-back had an outstanding match for his side tonight, and his positioning and last-ditch defending in particular proved to be a key reason why his side got across the line.
Ten Hag clearly assigned him to focus on the back post area when defending set-pieces and crosses, and on many occasions he was the one to make the vital header or clearance to stop West Ham from having a clear-cut chance to score. He did this particularly well in the second half to fend off the danger of Antonio.
In total, Dalot made one dribble, won two aerial duels and made four successful tackles.
Manchester United: De Gea 8, Dalot 8, Maguire 7, Martinez 7, Shaw 7, Casemiro 7, Eriksen 7, Elanga 5, Fernandes 7, Rashford 7, Ronaldo 6. Subs: McTominay 6, Fred 6.
West Ham United: Fabianski 6, Kehrer 6, Dawson 6, Zouma 6, Cresswell 6, Soucek 6, Rice 7, Downes 6, Bowen 6, Benrahma 7, Scamacca 6. Subs: Fornals 6, Antonio 6, Areola 6.
16’ – EARLY EFFORT FOR UNITED – Dalot once again advances down the right and whips in a dangerous cross into the area, which Rashford meets with a bullet header, but his effort is well held by Fabianski who catches.
38’ – GOAL! (Marcus Rashford) – Rashford scores his 100th United goal! Eriksen delivers a wicked ball towards the back post from the right, and Rashford leaps like a salmon to outjump Kehrer, and the attacker buries his header into the back of the net!
82’ – SUPERB SAVE – Antonio goes for goal from 20-yards out with a long-range strike. It looks like it is heading in, but De Gea reaches for it to tip it over the crossbar! Brilliant shot stopping.
83’ – WORLD-CLASS GOALKEEPING – Cresswell delivers in a brilliant cross towards the near post, and Zouma gets ahead of Dalot to get to the ball with his head, but the header is fantastically saved at point-blank range by De Gea, who tips it to his right!
86’ – OFF THE WOODWORK! – What a big chance! McTominay’s cross finds Fred, and his looped header comes crashing back off the far post!
90+4’ – DE GEA DOES IT AGAIN! – What a save! De Gea pulls one right out of the top drawer to keep his side ahead in stoppage time. Rice picks up the loose ball outside the area and whacks a powerful strike that is heading towards the top corner, but the Spaniard tips it wide!