The phrase ‘Fergie time’ was coined as United often snatched victories at the death during their trophy-laden era.
And there is a case for ‘Pep time’ now as neighbours Manchester City show their own will to win in the latter stages of games. Having overcome Feyenoord, Huddersfield and Southampton in this manner, the Etihad outfit did it again to maintain their eight-point advantage over United at the top of the Premier League.
A powerful header from Angelo Ogbonna stunned City on the stroke of half time as the struggling Hammers, led by home icon Pablo Zabaleta, defiantly set about trying to upset the form book.
But Guardiola’s side responded with Nicolas Otamendi squeezing in a leveller from a Gabriel Jesus cross and then David Silva latching onto a sublime Kevin De Bruyne pass and hooking a volley home for the winner seven minutes from time.
“I heard about the Fergie time,” said the City chief. “At the end what we show in the last games is we never give up.
“I think what happened, the opponent doesn’t want to play. They just want to defend, waiting for a moment. Even in that situation we have to learn to attack that position.
“That is why I’m happy because we were able to do it in the second half. In Huddersfield we had more problems than this in the second half when they defend the same way. If we can take something about the Fergie time, it is welcome, a pleasure.”
As City stretched their winning run to 20 games in all competitions, they also equalled the record 13-match streak, set in a single season, of Chelsea and Arsenal.
And Guardiola said he wants to maintain this run with Shakhtar Donetsk to follow in the Champions League on Wednesday and then a crunch clash at United on Sunday.
“I said to the players the guy who doesn’t want to play in Donetsk, let me know please,” he added. “I am preparing a team to win.”
Despite being driven back for most of the second half and keeper Adrian – deputising for Joe Hart, ineligible against his parent club – making a string of superb saves to deny City, namely from Silva and Leroy Sane, striker Diafra Sakho almost snatched an injury-time leveller, but fired wide.
The loss hurt the Hammers after their battling efforts and boss David Moyes made no excuse for setting his side up defensively.
“I really want the football to be attacking, but we are playing against a team that we can hardly get the ball from so what are you going to do?” said the Scot, whose second-bottom side next face Chelsea and Arsenal.
“We are gutted we lost it. Some results don’t show that they are a really good group of boys and working really hard, but when you play top teams you have to do it for 90, not 60 or 70.”
For a third straight game, Manchester City came close to dropping vital points, only for a late goal to secure a win. They struggled to break down a surprisingly stubborn West Ham side, but David Silva popped up to score the winner.
Here, we rate the players from both sides.
Ederson: Confident and assured again. Could do little about West Ham’s goal, but crucial save from Sakho shot. 6
Walker: Like his team-mates, was sluggish in the first half but burst forward with more intent in the second. 6
Mangala: A first league start for the Frenchman as Kompany was rested, but remains edgy and unconvincing. 5
Otamendi: Proving a real asset at both ends of the pitch. Strrong at the back and slid in a vital leveller. 7
Delph: Impressive and intelligent on and off the ball having started in midfield and remained so when he reverted to his left-back role. 8
Danilo: Not figured as much as he would have liked and this display was perhaps a reason why. Makes good runs, but final ball not good enough, nor his link-up with Sane on the left. 5
Silva: The magician conjured up a winner out of nothing. Clever run, clever finish, clever player. 8
De Bruyne: Another assist for the brilliant Belgian, but was often frustrated as the Hammers constantly closed him down. 7
Sane: Was a doubt through sickness, but recovered well enough in the second half to torment Zabaleta and finally create some chances. 7
Aguero: Largely starved of the ball and of opportunities, but was subdued when City poured forward after the break. 5
Sterling: After all his recent matchwinning heroics, this was a let down from the winger. Not involved enough. 6
Jesus (for Danilo 46′): Changed the game with his entrance as he brought energy and excellence to a flagging attack. 7
Fernandinho (for Aguero 85′): Brought on to shore up the defence once City had gone ahead. 6
Bernardo Silva (for Sane 90′): The Portuguese helped waste seconds at the end. N/A
WEST HAM UNITED
Adrian: Started instead of the ineligible Joe Hart and may well stay there after a solid display and spectacular saves, namely from Silva, De Bruyne, Sane twice and Jesus. 8
Zabaleta: Great reception at his former club and led from the front with sterling effort and crunching tackles until Sane’s youth and pace caused him problems in the second half. 7
Rice: Drafted in to replace the injured Winston Reid and belied his 18 years with a combative display, only to be caught out by Silva for the winner. 6
Ogbonna: Tough at the back and towering when he went upfield to notch the opener. 7
Cresswell: Kept Sterling quiet and provided great cross for Ogbonna goal. 7
Antonio: A lone warrior up front and similarly put in a battling display when he moved back into Kouyate’s role. 7
Obiang: Workmanlike in a congested midfield and helped stifle City’s frontline supply. 7
Kouyate: A powerful presence until he had to go off with injury. The Hammers missed his strength and breaks when he went off. 6
Fernandes: Constantly involved in trying to stop City and spark his own side on the counter. Made some timely interventions. 7
Masuaka: Offered Cresswell good support on the left, but could not get forward as much as his side needed. 6
Lanzini: The main source of West Ham’s creativity and the former Al Jazira man was denied a goal by a fine Ederson save. 7
Sakho (for Kouyate 43′): Offered a welcome attacking option, but the striker missed two chances that could have changed the outcome. 6
Arnautovic (for Lanzini 69′): Created the injury-time opportunity for Sakho with a charging run down the right. 6
Ayew (for Antonio 88′): Not enough time to make an impact. N/A
Manchester City have had to struggle for wins recently, but when West Ham arrived at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, bringing with them the league’s joint-worst defensive record, the expectation would have been that City would have a return to the norm, racking up goals for fun.
Instead they were faced with a well-organised West Ham defence that did a good job of blunting City’s attack. Fortunately, City have a man for that sort of thing in David Silva, and he delivered his usual blend of vision, passing, movement, along with the winning goal.
Here’s an in-depth look at Silva’s instrumental performance.
Goals – 1
Assists – 0
Shots – 4
Shots on target – 2
Pass Accuracy – 86%
Key Passes – 5
Touches – 109
Dribbles – 0
Silva conducted City’s attack from midfield as he always does, pulling the strings with his sharp passing and movement. It was the latter trait that won the game for City, after long spells where it seemed West Ham would be too tough to unlock even for a man of his play-making ability. But his darting run into the box – the first time he’d done that all game – got the defence to panic, and he took advantage with a cool finish to win the game.
25th min, SHOT: Nearly a cracking goal as Silva let fly from outside the box. His left-footed strike took a deflection, making Adrian’s job even tougher, but the West Ham keeper pulled out a fine save.
77th min, SHOT: Another chance for Silva, this time to put City in the lead. A clever turn earned him the space to shoot, but it was blocked thanks to some excellent defending.
83rd min, GOAL: A superb finish. Kevin de Bruyne sent in a delightful ball, and Silva took advantage of some slack West Ham defending to ghost in. But what made the finish so good was that Silva got a tug on his shirt that left him off-balance, yet he still managed to contort himself to get his foot on the ball and score the winner.
VERDICT – 8/10
It looked like this would be a frustrating night for Silva and City. But like in the two previous games, they found a way to break a stubborn team’s resistance and collect all three points. That they did was largely down to their diminutive Spanish veteran, who was his usual visionary self in midfield.
His telling impact came from his celebrated ability to spot a gap in the defence. Where he usually does that to find the perfect pass for a teammate, this time he ghosted into that space himself to score a superb winner and ensure City maintained their eight-point gap atop the Premier League table.