After the mid week loss to Young Boys, today’s game took on greater importance as another poor result would a bit of pressure onto Ole. With the expectations higher than ever before, times like this are going to be even more stressful for the Norwegian legend. The game started off well, with United in the ascendancy but the Hammers grew into the game and were rewarded with their better play as Benrahma’s shot deflected off Varane to completely wrong foot De Gea. It would only take 6 minutes for United to respond and it would be that man again, Ronaldo.
While the first half saw United as the clearly better team, West Ham stepped it up second half and were knocking on the proverbial door for what seemed like a prolonged spell. Yet they didn’t get their reward this time. Two substitutes by Solskjaer linked up in order to get the winner as Matic threaded a ball through to Lingard who would blast it into the top corner. Some late penalty drama at both ends, as De Gea saved his first Premier League penalty in 7 years to deny Noble a late equaliser.
Back to his best
You forget the human behind the player when times are rough. We are all guilty and such bad things happening mentally cannot be skipped out when talking about those down on their luck. Lingard was one of them. For two years, he looked a shadow of the player he looked in the 2017/18 season. Off the pitch problems were shrouding his play so much that there would be times he wouldn’t even be able to make it into the matchday squad, let alone get on as a sub. A loan to the club he scored the winner against today would be the trampoline back to his old form.
Never the quickest, strongest and technically adept, Lingard was able to be good enough at all these things whilst having enough between the ears to be the elusive number 10 that would go on a fine goalscoring streak, with the highlights being those two he stuck away against Arsenal. At West Ham, with the way they play, he was constantly in transition and that is where he thrives best. Once his confidence came back, his touch was assured again. His combination play was sharp once more. He was getting on the end of things and influencing games. The strike today was remarkably similar to the one he scored against Arsenal last season in another ding dong battle at West Ham’s home. His ability to carve out shooting opportunities with such little space and time but have the technique to hit the ball as cleanly as he does has been shown multiple times now. Newcastle last week and today are just more gems to be added to the collection. Lingard the human is happy again so Lingard the player is playing well again.
The Shaw redemption within the last year was quite magnificent. After the performance against Spurs in the 6-1, many thought that Telles would be able to get a stranglehold of the left back position permanently and Shaw would be demoted to a back up. In actuality, the move would spur Shaw on. He had more feathers to his bow, particularly in the crossing aspect. He found himself in great positions very often but his poor assists numbers reflected the fact his final ball was far from good when it was time to swing it in the box. He fixed this aspect so much that he is now United’s designated set piece taker when a left footer is required.
It is only 5 games and United have remained unbeaten but Shaw has not played well within that stretch. The push that Telles gave him, and Williams prior to that, is gone now that it is quite clear he is the preferred choice now. The laziness in defending is back. West Ham were constantly parading down his side of the pitch in the second half because he was caught upfield so often and failed to get back in ample time. Bowen and Coufal combined many times to get balls into the box. United were fortunate that nothing came to fruition. With Maguire down his side, it often feels like Shaw wants to protect him because of his lack of pace. But this left so much space for Bowen because he was constantly keeping the width by staying on the touchline. It became an incredibly easy out ball for West Ham. Hopefully this isn’t a malaise that continues for a long period of time. It has been an intense two years and Shaw had little pre season after the England Euro run. It might take a while to get back to his best but it would a shame for his redemption to be only for a year. If it does happen though, the thoughts of Telles taking his spot might actually come true.