Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko and left-back Aaron Cresswell produced the only moments of quality to earn West Ham the spoils from a turgid meeting with Manchester United.
Yarmolenko, 29, turned Harry Maguire and lashed into the bottom corner just before half time. Ex-Spain playmaker Juan Mata missed an open goal and the aforementioned lavishly acquired England centre-back then shot straight at goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski for Sunday’s visitors to London Stadium, prior to Cresswell smashing in a 20-yard free-kick in the latter stages.
The 2-0 win, temporarily at least, propelled the Hammers into the top four after six games played. This result also both further hampered their opponents’ Champions League hopes, plus came with the extra cost of losing England forward Marcus Rashford to a groin problem.
Here are the talking points:
HAIL THE HAMMERS
Focus will always centre on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s moribund Red Devils when it comes to 99 per cent of their matches.
It is pertinent, however, to remember the other United in this fixture.
Brawny centre-backs Issa Diop – a reputed summer target for the Norwegian – and Gabriel Ogbonna snubbed out Rashford’s limited threat. England’s Declan Rice provided a firm barricade that the visitors’ dim-witted starting midfield could not outfox, while it is utterly perplexing that dominant French No9 Sebastien Haller was not playing for the team in gold that sold Romelu Lukaku this summer.
The overall picture is rosy for ex-Manchester City employee Manuel Pellegrini. His developing side now have more points than Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur over the last 31 top-flight matches.
Where to begin when picking apart United’s carcass?
For starters, West Ham have now defeated the fallen giants three times in their last five top-flight home meetings. That’s more than the first 19 home games against them since the Premier League’s inauguration.
An already paper-thin squad has been torn asunder by injuries to Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and now Rashford. Sunday’s second-half team that had either substitute Jesse Lingard or Wales winger Daniel James as an – absurdly – false No9 was one of their weakest XI’s in living memory.
4 - Manuel Pellegrini is the first manager to win against four different Manchester United managers in the Premier League (Moyes, van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer). Collection. pic.twitter.com/pfGI9wTHrO— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 22, 2019
Solskjaer has not won his last nine away games. The boss sacked by relegated Cardiff City in September 2014 has now emerged victorious three times, in all competitions, in 13 matches since the Hammers were beaten on April 14.
Yet would sacking a fourth manager in five years make any true difference? The true villain watched on from the stands – football pygmy and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, empowered by poisonous owners the Glazers.
DOESN’T MATA ANYMORE
A symbol of United’s disorder is Mata.
The waning 31-year-old playmaker has no goals or assists in six PL outings since a new contract was signed last summer. He’s averaging per game in the 2019/20 top flight; 0.7 shots, 0.8 key passes, 0.2 dribbles and 20.3 average passes.
With Arsenal and Liverpool making up two of United’s next three PL fixtures, something has to change. Starting with an invisible Spaniard.
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