Following the recent defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals, Manchester United would have hoped to return back to winning ways and usual standards as they took an in-form West Ham side, who are three points above the relegation zone. However, that was not the case, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were unable to cause severe problems to a well organised David Moyes team.
Going into the game, the Red Devils were looking for nothing but the much needed three points, especially after Leicester City had lost to Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend whilst Chelsea face a difficult trip away to Liverpool. On the other hand, the Hammers main focus was to ensure they do not lose the fixture by a large number of goals, should they feel the force of United’s rapid attack.
Looking at the match as a whole, the hosts had just about dominated the possession of the game as many had expected, as they went on to achieve 57% possession of the ball and 192 passes in the attacking third compared to West Ham’s 85 successful passes in the final third area. Nonetheless, it was actually the away side that had shown to be more effective on and off the ball, in all honesty.
West Ham took the lead just before the half-time break, through Michail Antonio, who had very little to work with, but had the opportunity to give his team the lead from the penalty spot, which he calmly slotted down the middle of the goal. However, the visitor’s goal was cancelled out straightaway after the break, as Mason Greenwood worked a nice one-two phase with Anthony Martial near the penalty area, before lashing the ball low and into the corner of the net.
In the end, there was not many clear-cut chances for either side, to go on to taking the full three points and moving higher up the table. The 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening leaves Manchester United currently in 3rd place, whilst West Ham recent rise has taken them to 15th place.
Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
Solskjaer’s lack of in-game management has to be questioned
Majority of the focus will be on Paul Pogba giving the penalty away, the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic performing poorly, or the lack of attacking contribution coming from the full-backs. However, the questions has to be raised on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s lack of in-game management, as he more or less cost his team two crucial points in a must-win game.
As majority of the starting line-up had looked fatigued, Solskjaer had failed to bring on individuals such as Daniel James, Diogo Dalot and Fred, who potentially could have provided the energy and positivity the team was missing throughout the match. Not only that, he made just two out of five changes during the game, with a full-back coming on for another full back and a forward for a winger, evidently showing that Solskjaer did not actually go all out for the much needed victory.
United should look no further for a defensive-midfielder than Declan Rice
Since signing a contract extension with the club in recent weeks, Nemanja Matic’s performances have instantly dropped to a level where he is taking too many touches on the ball, and is committing constant fouls in dangerous areas, just outside of the penalty box. Given that he is 31-years-old and is currently on his last legs, he is one player that should not be dependent on to perform at a high level and on a regular basis, leaving Solskjaer in an issue where he needs a new defensive-midfielder.
On that basis, the manager and the club do not need to look any further for a potential defensive-midfield signing other than Declan Rice, who has played a pivotal role in helping West Ham stay above the relegation zone and is proving to become more of a complete midfielder since the Premier League season has restarted. From his consistent tackles and interceptions to his types and range of passing, he seems to be the perfect player to provide solidity and balance to the midfield.
The Red Devils have a huge final on the last day of the season
With how the fixtures have resulted on Wednesday evening, it leaves Manchester United in third place and just above fourth-place Chelsea on goal difference, whilst Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City remain in fifth position. And on the final day of the Premier League season, Chelsea face a tough match at home to Wolves whilst Solskjaer’s men have a difficult away trip to King Power Stadium.
On Sunday afternoon, it will be all or nothing for the likes of Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United, where all three teams will have to be at their very best, in order to play in the Champions League next season. The Red Devils and Solskjaer have worked a huge miracle to turnaround the race for a top four finish, as they were 14 points behind Leicester and 5 points behind Chelsea at the start of the year, but all that matters now, is the huge final fixture on the last day of the campaign.