It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these, so bear with me, but I felt compelled to sum up my thoughts from our 1-1 draw against West Ham in the FA Cup.
1. United actually looked pretty good this afternoon. I know it’s hard to get any sort of balance now, or work out whether our barometer for ‘good’ is anything like what it should be. But this West Ham side are good. They’ve beaten Arsenal at the Emirates, thrashed Liverpool at Anfield, beat City at the Etihad, and beat title favourites Spurs less than a fortnight ago. That’s not to say that we should be celebrating a draw against them, but we should be happy with a performance against them that saw us totally dominate the possession and chances, limiting their only real threat of the game to a dead ball. We weren’t clinical enough, often enough, and didn’t test the goalie like we should have, but we played some nice, attacking football today, particularly in the second half, and I enjoyed it.
2. Anthony Martial scored his 11th goal of season after looking much more up for it than he has done in recent games. As much as the fans have been calling for him to play centrally, he’s a real threat when out on the left too, as long as we can get the ball to him. He’s totally fearless when driving in to the box and running at defenders, which is just great to watch. I was really chuffed to see him score though, as he’s gone a few games without, and it’s important he’s full of confidence with so few striking options available to us.
3. Marouane Fellaini didn’t play as badly as the cheers that were heard when he was subbed off would suggest. I feel for the Belgian in some ways. Initially, he was associated with everything that was wrong about David Moyes’ time at the club, and now the same can be said of Louis van Gaal’s tenure too. We want to watch quick, attacking football, with nice touches and clever passing. A midfield that contained Fellaini won’t ever bring that, with his slow and cumbersome approach. He was fine today. He didn’t do much great but he didn’t do much awful either, but it’s just what having him on the pitch represents that irritates the fans. United looked so much better when Bastian Schweinsteiger (hurray!) replaced him, and it was no surprise we scored the equaliser minutes later.
4. As frustrating as Memphis Depay is, it’s hard to ignore how much creativity he can bring when playing well. Like Martial, he can run at players and get in behind defences to pull balls back across the box. Annoyingly though, he’ll lose the ball in a stupid way after doing all the hard work, or will get himself in a fantastic position then fire the ball high in to the stands. There was one moment today when he just had a snapshot at goal, but instead of having a go, he opted to roll his foot over the ball one more time and allow the defender time to get back in front of him. He’s annoying but that’s bags of ability in there.
5. I love Guillermo Varela. What an exciting young player to have in the squad. He’s been given an opportunity this season he probably never thought he would get, and he is making the most of it. He was great going forward, helping out Jesse Lingard, but then also solid defensively too. There was a moment towards the end when Varela was the only defender able to keep up with a breaking Payet, and held him up well enough and won the ball back. Antonio Valencia is coming back from injury and although I know it’s probably likely, given how much Van Gaal likes the Ecuadorian, I hope he doesn’t bump Varela out of the team.
6. The West Ham fans were largely disappointing. Even when they just have a normal allocation, they’re loud, so with 9,000 fans I was expecting them to generate a fantastic atmosphere. As it was, they sang “your support is fucking shit” two minutes in to the game, and then on occasion showed how much noise they could make, but this wasn’t sustained. They also sang “Carlos Tevez, he left ‘cos you’re shit”, which is an odd one, because I’m pretty sure that’s why he left them, no? And really, Tevez? Let’s get over that weird little crush now shall we.
7. The referee was awful. It was Martin Atkinson, so I know we shouldn’t be surprised, but he’s such a spineless, useless little man. We should have had a penalty when Reid used his arm to block Ander Herrera’s shot, and there needed to be a decisive action on Payet’s fall in the box. Was it a dive? If so, give him his second yellow and get him off the pitch (before he could put West Ham ahead). If it was a foul, send off Rojo and award a penalty. To just blink and pretend nothing happened was pathetic. Having seen the replay, I think Payet is diving there, going to ground before Rojo gets near him. Contact doesn’t mean penalty, and contact doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself to the floor.
8. We’re probably going to lose away, and we’re probably going to get knocked out of the Europa League this week too. It doesn’t really feel like there’s much light at the end of the tunnel at the moment, but I enjoyed that game today.