Manchester United drew a blank against West Ham at the London Stadium on Thursday to seal second place in the league. The Red Devils just could not find their sharpness on the night and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, notes a few things from the encounter.
Better start than at Brighton
After the manager’s rollicking following the loss at Brighton last Friday, the players were expected to show spirit and a very good attitude against West Ham and that was largely the case on the night.
There was some urgency in the pursuit of the ball and passes were fairly sharp. There were even attempts from distance from Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba.
Luke Shaw was on hand to provide down the left and he was even willing to get into tight spots to win the ball back and keep the attack going. He deserved a goal had his shot not been touched by West Ham goalie, Adrian, onto the post.
The positive vibe was apparent and the player merit some praise for trying to make something happen at least in the first half.
Poor execution ruined matters
As it has been all season, getting an almost perfect display from the team was a challenge against West Ham. While the attitude was very good especially in the first half, the bolts-and-nuts of creating openings and getting goals was now proving to be more tasking.
It was not as though West Ham set their stall to totally defend and save their lives but the Red Devils always took the wrong decision at the most important times and maybe some tactical tweaking was needed.
It was clear Romelu Lukaku was not going to be present and so, Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard had to lead the charge in attack.
If that was the understanding, why was there no proper coordination between the two players to determine who would, at least, play as a false number 9 to cause problems for West Ham?
Why was there no running in behind the defence for through passes?
A large part of the second half was spent playing in front of West Ham when some quick, smart passing and movement would have opened the doors for clearer chances.
The manager must sort this out because there could always be a chance that Romelu Lukaku may not fully fit for the FA Cup final on May 19.
The last thing he will wish for is an attack that cannot be dynamic and creative in a showpiece final.
Some positives to remember
The draw against West Ham gives Man United second place in the league and their highest finish since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Of course, things could and should have been better. Certain matches should have been won and the gap between the Red Devils and Manchester City should have been closer but none of that matters now. The situation has already played itself out.
However, finishing second is a big deal when you look at the struggles of the last five years.
The football may sometimes not be pretty under Jose Mourinho but the victories have increased and some of them have been against direct rivals for the title and UEFA Champions League places and there is the need to look at those moments and be happy.
In addition, David De Gea grabbed his first Golden Glove Award ever since he came to England.
Some people feel that the award is not a great way of measuring a goalie’s impact on a team and to a large extent, it is right. Most clean sheets come from great defensive work even though you will have some contributions from goalkeepers.
Long story short, David De Gea and his defence have done very well and if this award is what he gets for his hard work, he should embrace it.
There is the need to finish the league season off on Sunday with a victory. It may not mean much in terms of points but it leaves the team in a great frame of mind ahead of the cup final.