Manchester United needed two penalties from Paul Pogba to garner all three points as they beat West Ham United 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Manchester United rode their luck for large parts of the game, with refereeing errors and woodwork bailing them out. The first instance came early on, as the linesman deemed Felipe Anderson to be offside when in fact replays showed that Diogo Dalot had played him onside, if only by a whisker.
United took advantage of the reprieve, as Paul Pogba converted from the spot in the 19th minute after Robert Snodgrass had brought Juan Mata inside the West Ham United box. Thereafter, however, the hosts struggled to create clear-cut chances to add to their advantage, with the Hammers ending the first half the stronger of the two sides.
West Ham continued from they left off, bringing the scores back to level terms in the 49th minute, as Felipe Anderson converted from Manuel Lanzini’s cross. The visitors only grew in confidence subsequently, with Michael Antonio extremely unlucky to miss out twice, once due to his left-footed shot smashing into the woodwork while the other was saved by the tiptoed David de Gea.
In the end, Manchester United had the last laugh as they were awarded a second penalty, this time for Ryan Fredericks’ foul on Anthony Martial, who was through on goal. Pogba stepped up once again and scored emphatically past the outstretched hand of Lukasz Fabianski.
In the final ten minutes, the Red Devils held on to their slender lead, with the three points taking them past Arsenal into fifth on the table. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
David de Gea: 6/10
It was a largely quiet evening for de Gea, who was only called into action a handful of times. Made a spectacular save to deny Michail Antonio, but could not have done much to stop Felipe Anderson, even though the goal went into his near post.
But, what let de Gea down the most on the day was his distribution. In fact, it was poor distribution that saw Manchester United lose the ball for the goal they conceded, and that was only the tip of the iceberg in that regard. Needs massive improvements with the ball at his feet.
Diogo Dalot: 5.5/10
Up until now, Dalot has made quite an impression, particularly in the final third, where his deliveries have been quite dangerous. But, on Saturday, Dalot was far from his best, with his end product not quite there. At the back, he had his hands full with Felipe Anderson and can count himself lucky to have escaped with the offside call when the Brazilian had scored. Part of his learning curve.
Chris Smalling: 7/10
Smalling has been much improved ever since he made his return from injury a couple of months ago. And, on Saturday, the Englishman was the leader that Manchester United needed him to be at the back, while also keeping check on Javier Hernandez and being commanding in the air all throughout. Stepping up impressively, and how.
Phil Jones: 7/10
Chances have come few and far between for Jones lately. Against West Ham, however, he was up to the task at hand, barely giving an inch in open play. Reliable while building up play at the back as well, meaning he filled Victor Lindelof’s void expertly. A fine back option at Solskjaer’s disposal at the moment.
Marcos Rojo: 5/10
With Ashley Young and Luke Shaw suspended, Solskjaer had to call upon Rojo to be an emergency left-back. But, while the Argentine started well, it all went downhill after the goal by Anderson, whom he had failed to mark. Listless in attack, with a meek long range effort the only notable moment.
Fred’s game by numbers vs. West Ham:
91% pass accuracy
15 ball recoveries
4/5 long balls
2 tackles won
Some of those passes out to Lukaku. 🤮 pic.twitter.com/Sh8oewxQB4
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) April 13, 2019
Fred has had his fair share of struggles. But, he is now starting to turn a corner, and how. After a solid performance against Barcelona, the Brazilian was in his elements once again, pressing aggressively in the middle of the park and making a game-high 15 recoveries. Relishing the deeper role in midfield, and it looks like the investment is finally starting to pay off.
Paul Pogba: 9/10
With just two central midfielders being deployed by Solskjaer, Pogba had a lot of defensive duties to complete. While it has not exactly been his forte at Manchester United, the Frenchman was diligent in the tasks he was given while off the ball.
Stepped up to take two penalties on the day, and it was refreshing to see that he had done away with the excruciatingly long stuttering run-up. Indeed, Pogba looked more assured with the new run-up and coolly slotted both spot-kicks with ease. Up to 16 goals for the season, he is now Manchester United’s top scorer this season.
Since Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over, Paul Pogba leads Man Utd in:
direct goal involvements (16)
chances created (27)
Main man. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/FVOwgZTFb4
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) April 13, 2019
Jesse Lingard: 4/10
Back into the side, this was Lingard’s chance to stake a claim for a more regular role. But, the English midfielder was far from his best, not even excelling off the ball. When that happens you know it was not to be his day. Anonymous when it came to forward movements as well.
Juan Mata: 5/10
While Lingard was not heavily involved, Mata saw quite a bit of the ball, but was disappointing with his choice of passes. However, he gets a bump in rating point due to the fact that he won one of the penalties for the hosts.
Anthony Martial: 4/10
Martial was the Manchester United attacker who saw the most of the ball. But, with that came a responsibility that he was not able to fulfil, as he was frustratingly sloppy on the ball, which cost Manchester United a lot of the momentum. Also gets a bump in point due to the fact that he won the match winning penalty. Listless otherwise.
Romelu Lukaku: 6/10
With West Ham taking the game to Manchester United, Lukaku found himself isolated at the top. But, in whatever little action he got, the Belgian did well, drifting wide and dropping deep to create space for his teammates. Posed a huge threat with his crosses as well and his substitution was rather perplexing.
Marcus Rashford: 7/10
While the decision to take Lukaku off was dubious, Rashford did make a big impact upon being introduced, with his pace and driving runs exactly what Manchester United needed to get the momentum back. Part of the move that ended with Martial winning the penalty.
Andreas Pereira: N/A
On for the final 15 minutes, Pereira grafted along in the middle of the park to ensure his side’s dominance in the climactic end of the game.
Mason Greenwood: N/A
Another cameo appearance for the young prospect, although he could do nothing of note.