A Paul Pogba brace from the penalty spot gave Man United a tough 2-1 win over West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday. Contributing writer, Nathan Quao, observed the game and has put down his thoughts.
Heavy labour at Old Trafford
Another home game, another suffered performance. The Red Devils were taken through a lot on the day by the visitors and it was unpleasant and most of it was self-inflicted.
Players lacked strength and energy to tackle and press and certain critical passes were mishit leading to dangerous West Ham attacks.
Once again, the team shape was easy to break up and it was very troubling for all those who saw the game.
Several times, West Ham easily played through United and there should be a lot of concern. Felipe Anderson’s attempted cutback in the first half which was blocked by David De Gea was a great example.
The game was open but there should have been a realisation of that fact and something should have changed.
West Ham were allowed too many moments of freedom and ingenuity and that was a problem all game. The signs were there when Watford came calling but where they failed to raise the alarms, West Ham did so really well.
More warnings will come in the future and fans should feel worried, especially as Chelsea and Manchester City will be at Old Trafford soon. They have the tools to make such errors cost premium.
Misfiring Mata, Martial and Marcos
Anthony Martial may raise his hand in objection because he caused the second penalty that separated the two teams eventually, but he will have to admit that he, Juan Mata and Marcos Rojo were very poor on the day.
Martial repeated taking bad decisions all game and the high point was in the second half when he dribbled the ball out of play in a one on one situation with Pablo Zabaleta.
Mata looked lost on the pitch and the performance left more doubt in the minds of fans as to whether he still had something for the team going forward.
For Rojo, maybe being inactive was the cause but he looked jittery and unsure all day and, at his worst, his very poor positioning allowed Felipe Anderson to level for West Ham.
There were other poor performers too, like Jesse Lingard and Diego Dalot. They seemed very incapable of dealing with the pace and physicality of the West Ham team and that left the team very short, especially in the second half.
The victory came through at the end of the day and that was the most important thing. The fight for the top four spots is tough. There isn’t space for a slip-up and the manager has underlined this. The battle for Champions League football will require better performances from everyone.
David De Gea must be more careful with his delivery as he was guilty for the poor throw that began the sequence for West Ham’s equaliser. However, his save on Michail Antonio’s header is a strong reminder of his quality and why United desperately need to extend his deal.
Full-backs must be able to attack and defend well. Neither Dalot nor Rojo covered themselves in glory today.
Looking lively will simply not cut it, which is all Lingard really had to offer. Proper decisions, self application and effective end products are the elements that will take Man United towards top level European football next season.
A tough trip to Everton is next in the league, after the second leg against Barcelona. Both will be tough and unforgiving. The Red Devils need to be ready for them.