After a very convincing performance against Feyenoord midweek, Manchester United failed to build on their Europa League performance against West Ham United in the Premier League. Like against Burnley, Stoke and Arsenal, United dominated the game and created a bucket load of chances but failed to take all three points.
Mourinho switched his promising 4-3-3 to his go to 4-2-3-1 and United suffered because of it. The absence of Carrick, having played two consecutive games in the past week, saw Herrera and Pogba partnered at the base of midfield; not positions which suit their skill sets. The midfield balance was off and West Ham’s 3-4-3 soaked up much of United’s pressure, especially in the second half.
The Reds started the game awfully, conceding a free kick on the edge of the box and going a goal down from Diafra Sakho’s header having barely touched the ball. The response was good, however, and United controlled the rest of the game in terms of possession and shots. Zlatan Ibrahimović’s header brought the hosts back level in the 21st minute but failed to beat Darren Randolph again in the 90. The Irish international, like many goalkeepers visiting Old Trafford recently, had a stormer and was the mean reason why United failed to take all three points.
After the game, Ander Herrera and Rui Faria, speaking for Jose Mourinho who was once again sent to the stands for unprofessional behaviour, bemoaned the Reds’ lack of luck. While they have a legitimate argument (United had more than double West Ham’s xG – @11tegen11) there comes a point when luck cannot be the only answer.
It is now four Premier League home games in a row where United have dominated procedures but failed to pick up a win. In general, when things happen numerous times it is difficult to blame luck or the supernatural consistently. It is very probably that the Red Devils are suffering from a serious lack of confidence which is rubbing off on their finishing. The poor morale at United is deep rooted and not easy to shift. In the golden era, Old Trafford used to scare the visiting team. Now it seems to unnerve the hosts.
GK: David De Gea: 7
Was not at fault for Sakho’s opener and actually kept United in the game in the dying moments when former Red, Ashley Fletcher, forced the Spaniard into a good save. Made a precautionary save from Dimitri Payet’s free kick in the second half and, other than that, was not tested.
RB: Valencia: 7
Quickly becoming Mourinho’s ‘mister reliable’. Another very solid game for the 31 year old who was a consistent thorn in Aaron Cresswell’s side. His crossing is not as dependable as it has been in the past but he provided a number of good opportunities for United going forward. Was never really put under significant pressure defensively.
RCB: Phil Jones: 7
After two decent performances against Swansea and Arsenal, Jones looks to be growing more familiar with the weight of United’s shirt, putting forward his best performance of the season so far against West Ham. Showed very good pace (not something he is especially known for) in beating Sakho in the 23rd minute and dominated aerially winning the joint-most duels of anyone on the pitch (6). One of those defensive headers would have become an assist had Marcus Rashford beaten Randolph in his one on one.
LCB: Marcos Rojo: 6
Like Jones, Rojo had a good game aerially winning four duels at an 80% success rate. Unlike Jones, Rojo had a few uncertain moments which fuelled the fire for those supporters who believe that the Argentinian is not fit to wear the United badge. He was fortunate to not concede a penalty for handball at the end of the first half and was beaten too easily by Ashley Fletcher for his chance at the end of the game.
LB: Matteo Darmian: 6@WikimediaCommons
Tested thoroughly by Michail Antonio’s marauding runs and looked uncertain at the best of times. Only won three of his six attempted tackles and was caught out late on by Antonio’s dribble into the box. The Italian international was very poor going forward in stark contrast with Valencia on the opposite flank. Seemed to run out of ideas in the final third with the majority of his passes going backwards. Fortunately for Darmian, Luke Shaw seems to have fallen out with Mourinho with the young left back once again being left out of the match day squad. For the near future, Darmian will hold down the left side of defence, much to the fans’ dismay.
RDM: Ander Herrera: 6
Took up Carrick’s role of screening United’s defence but looked like a square peg in a round hole at times. Was dribbled past the joint most of any player on the pitch (3) but did provide the second most interceptions (3). One of Herrera’s clearest qualities is his industrious work-rate, and so, when he is restricted to anchoring the midfield there is a distinct lack of pressing to United’s game. As was seen on Thursday night against Feyenoord, Herrera is best suited to the right side of a three-man midfield where he has license to get forward and track back.
LDM: Paul Pogba: 7
Because of Herrera’s instructions to stay deep, Pogba had more license to roam forward. His scooped through ball to Ibrahimović was perfectly weighted for the Swede to nod home for United’s equaliser. The Frenchman set up Ibrahimović again at the end of the first half but his incisive pass was not awarded with an assist. In the second half, Pogba’s effort from the edge of the area was well saved by Darren Randolph to keep the score at 1-1. Statistically, Pogba was the best player on the pitch, winning the joint most aerial duels (6) and winning the joint-most dribbles (4). There are, however, some frustrating aspects to his game. His through ball to Rashford in the first half was over hit and forced the youngster much wider than he should have and some of the ‘trick box’ flicks and turns seemed unnecessary and sometimes led to dispossession. It was his theatrical dive in the first half which led to his booking and Mourinho’s dismissal to the stands for kicking a water bottle in protestation.
RM: Jessie Lingard: 6
Gave away the free kick in the first minute which led to West Ham’s opener but worked tirelessly and effectively from then on out. His brilliant movement and shot at the end of the first half should have been awarded with a goal if it was not for a fantastic Randolph save. Was unfortunate to not put United ahead in the second half when he pounced on Mkhitaryan’s rebound only to be hauled back for offside (correctly, just). Many a groan was heard around Old Trafford when the exuberant winger was substituted for Marouane Fellaini in the 85th.
CAM: Juan Mata: 6
United’s creative fulcrum was not at his usual best against West Ham and spent much of the game anonymous. Played a good through ball for Lingard’s chance at the end of the first half but did not provide much else in terms on penetration. Probably should have been kept on the pitch with United chasing a goal, given his recent form.
LM: Marcus Rashford: 5@WikimediaCommons
The star man from the second half of last season has dropped in performance levels this campaign. Made lots of very good runs but whenever he got the ball he looked short of confidence to take on his man and his end product was uncharacteristically poor. Put in a decent cross for Ibrahimović in the first half but completely fluffed his one on one with Randolph just a few moments later. For a player known for his individual impact, zero key passes and zero dribbles won does not look great.
ST: Ibrahimović: 7
Started off the game poorly by being beaten by Sakho for West Ham’s opener. Made up for the deficit with a brilliantly guided header to put the hosts on level terms. Took too long winding up his shot at the end of the first half which allowed Angelo Ogbonna to make a last-ditch block. Showed great anticipation in the second half when he pounced on Collins’ mistake and rounded Randolph but his touch let Cheikhou Kouyaté clear the ball before Zlatan could put the ball in the empty net. Much has been made from Ibrahimović’s wayward finishing of late but the big Swede’s game is much more than just finishing chances. Against West Ham, Zlatan played five key passes which was two more than any other player on the pitch and did brilliantly to set up Lingard in the first half.
Wayne Rooney: 5
Failed to have any significant impact on the game and actually hindered United’s build up play more than he helped it. Had two poor efforts, one straight at Randolph and the other off target.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 6
Looked bright on the left hand side and played some smart passes to link up with Valencia. Was very unlucky to not put United ahead when his shot was brilliantly saved onto the inside of the post by Randolph. Mourinho’s claims that the Armenian is not ready for the Premier League have some weight as the ex-Dortmund man was shrugged off the ball too easily at times.
Marouane Fellaini: N/A@WikimediaCommons
Genuinely awful. Came on as a final ‘hoof-ball’ option and did not win a single header. Despite coming on in the 85th minute, the Belgian managed to give away a free kick in a dangerous area and pick up a yellow card, the latter probably being his best involvement in the game as he will now be suspended for Wednesday’s EPL fixture against West Ham.
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