It was a performance that quite frankly we would not have seen last season. In this final appearance in front of the Old Trafford faithful before we break for the World Cup, the only goal of the game came from Rashford leaping like a fish at the back post to put Man Utd ahead. Outside of that, West Ham well and truly matched us. In the last 15 minutes, a combination of Dalot, Maguire, Martinez and De Gea gave goal posts a charmed life as the Hammers played as their name sake’s. Points on the board are the most important thing at this point as the train trudges along. It wasn’t pretty but it won’t matter as per the celebrations at the end. A great send off in a way before we reconvene for the Boxing Day fixtures.
100 and counting…
If there was anything that United fans would tell that this current team misses, is the extra quality in the final third. Just two years ago, it would have been unthinkable but given a combination of factors, it has left The Red Devils in a precarious position when you talk about their offensive options. So when you think of this, the fact that Marcus Rashford’s future is one that split fans down the middle in terms of being happy with him going or staying, it will tell you about the form that the England international has been serving up for the majority of these past 18 months.
In a weird way, when you see the 24 year old, 25 tomorrow on Halloween, not heavily involved in the game that is when you get concerned. In terms of consistency in his decision making, it is not the best so limiting him to few chances to make things happens makes it more likely that the outcome will be negative. Too many times last season, it looked like Rashford would rather be anyone else but on the Old Trafford turf or donning the colours of United. Since his breakthrough, when he is on song, there is seldom a United player that can turn a game like the Wythenshawe man.
Today, you clearly saw the enjoyment back in his game. Under Erik Ten Hag, the positioning of the wingers are taking up are very Dutch like. They work very much in tandem with the full backs but mostly, they like to get chalk on their boots. For someone like Rashford, being able to stand up his man and run at him is the dream. Of course, he likes to dart inside of his man and get a shot off or slide a pass in towards goal but he still has the threat of taking someone down the line. He doesn’t use his left foot enough for that final action but he at least keeps his opponent honest in that respect. Thilo Kehrer was kept very honest as Rashford played with an intensity we haven’t seen in a long while. A graphic went around that showed that he had already matched the goal scoring exploits of last season, with only a third of the season gone. If he keeps scoring goals like he did today then it’ll be about outdoing his best goal scoring days.
It was a header that was reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo’s remarkable one in Rome in 2007. More so the connection that the initial run but the pace at which both he and Rashford met it at meant it went careening into the net. A second header in succession after his one against Sheriff. It was his 100th for Man Utd and just like Ronaldo did when he scored his 100th career goal at the end in Old Trafford, Rashford gestured it with his hands to the crowd. Still has some way to go to be the best goal scorer to be ever seen at United but hopefully he will have the chance to run it close.
Crossed Off The List
One of the things that many United fans have been beleaguered about over the past years is the lack of crossing that can be seen from wider areas. It was something the club prided themselves upon under the years of Fergie but it dried up significantly in the more recent years.
With Dalot, Shaw, Eriksen, Bruno, they have competent enough crossers of the ball and you saw it today for the goal. The cross that was caressed into the box by Eriksen was beautifully laid up for Rashford to crash the header into the goal. But it was not the only one. Multiple times, United did not turn down the opportunity to put the ball in the box. Even the header that Fred saw come off the post late in the game came from a cross in that right half space from McTominay. When you have a marksman like Ronaldo up there, it makes sense and they were of a decent quality in comparison the rubbish that has been served up in that regard. It must have been something Ten Hag saw in us that was definitely lacking and it is good to see that it has been worked upon.
If you take out the horror shows of Brighton, Brentford and Man City, this was probably the worst overall performance that we have seen from United this season. The ball circulation was way too slow to shift West Ham out of their defensive shape nor were we able to keep the ball well enough to slow down any tide the Hammers were building up in the latter stages. United may be forgiven for the fact that they played on Thursday and with their strongest XI, some of which weren’t able to play today because of injuries. It looked like these players tried towards the end and it may be something we have to contend with as we go into this international break.
Gary Neville said in commentary “Dalot, Dalot, Dalot…” and it was not enough for the amount of times he headed away at the back post. It was a chronic weakness of Wan Bissaka that teams would get joy off the back post area but it doesn’t seem to happen with Dalot. He stays alert and makes sure his defensive actions are completed on most occasions. It is his longest run in the United side and with performances like that, this run is not going to stop without another type of intervention.