Not a game that many will be pulling from the archives in the future. Two good Fabianski saves aside, the game had very little quality in the attacking sense. It took an all the more common goal from Scott McTominay to break the deadlock so the dreaded penalties did not have to be felt.
When the transfer of Van De Beek was announced, a lot of people were asking how he would fit into a team that had already brought a January sensation in Bruno Fernandes and with Paul Pogba still being an option. Given his scholarship with Ajax, his ability to play in a variety of positions and roles gave some the comfort that he would be a good rotational piece and option off the bench if we want to change things. As things have transpired, he has been neither. It is not entirely his fault. Having come from the Amsterdam club, the way in which the play football, it is with set patterns. United are much more freestyle in their attacking endeavours, meaning it can be hard to pick up the spaces that are going to worry the opposition. Often, you demand the ball and provoke situations so that they become dangerous. The Dutchman isn’t that type of player, in function or personality. He is hardly demanding of the ball to be fed into him when he stands in the spaces. These spaces were particularly tight with West Ham’s set up but even then, he could have been aggressive in asking for the ball. He fluttered around looking for touches and fleeted on the edge of the game far too much to have any desired effect that would have been beneficial for the Red Devils. Many have asked for him to be moved deeper as he would give some security in possession, while probably giving more progression than a double pivot of Fred and Matic. His lack of mobility and unknown defensive acumen may perhaps play into way we have rarely seen this from Solskjaer but it would definitely not hurt to have Van de Beek see much more of the ball than he was today and most of his appearances. Arguably his best game came against Southampton, on the left side of a diamond where he was able to link up well with Telles and Rashford down the side. Even when the shape was changed in the second half, as United chased a 2 goal deficit, he was good in doing that ball progression spoken of earlier so that the offensive players were found much earlier. It might be time for a rethink in terms of his role in the team if we are to see the best from him this season.
As aforementioned, United play very much off the cuff. It can be painstaking for the opposition because you never know what you’re going to get exactly. Unfortunately, it can be just as excruciating for all United fans because the team often look like they have no idea what is going on either. More than two years into Solskjaer’s reign, it can be safely assumed that the sophistication in attack that we can see from Man City and now Chelsea won’t be here any time soon while the Norwegian is manager. Given the attacking talent that we have, it doesn’t crop up as a problem a lot but when it does, it can be such a hindrance to any attacking flow. What’s more, because the team has to be rotated, especially in this condensed season, those that come in will look even worse as our team is so reliant on rhythm. Players coming in and out of the team means that relationship bonds are broken. For all these things, Telles was perhaps the most threatening player throughout the team. He showed a mobility to not only overlap continuously but to get back on two occasions, one time which saved the blushed of the captain, Maguire. Matic, in what was a rare start for him, ticked over admirably. He did not have to do much in terms of defensive work given West Ham’s poor offense. However, even when the usual players came on, the pattern remained quite similar. The Hammers low block, that got even lower as they switched to three at the back, caused us the same problems we saw with West Brom, Wolves and Sheffield United earlier in the season. Bruno Fernandes, even by his standards, was scarily loose with his passing attempts. Cavani offered extremely little as United hardly found him. Shaw and Williams was a sub purely to add freshness in defensive transitions and verve going down the flanks. But, all importantly for Solskjaer, one of the subs got the winner, which was McTominay. Hopefully, it won’t have to come to that no more.