Manchester United banished a couple ghosts that have haunted them this year, at least for this match, and came up with a gutsy win at Old Trafford.
Manchester United – 4-4-2
West Ham United – 4-4-1-1
I’ve got to say this right up front. The Duke would have been proud of the Red Devils this week as they showed True Grit in pulling out the win…and West Ham have nothing to hang their heads about either.
It appears that Robin van Persie has gotten really tired of reading/listening to everyone talk about how United keeps giving up the first goal, and he took care of that ghost with the fastest goal of the Premier League so far this year. 31 seconds after United kicked off, Carrick sent a pass to RVP who summoned his inner Dennis Bergkamp with a flick around West Ham defender Winston Reid. His shot deflected off James Collins, bounded high into the air, dropped just behind the Hammer’s keeper who had come off his line to cut down the angle, and bounced into the net. What no one realized at the time – van Persie’s 31st second strike would end up the match-winner.
From that point on we were treated (a sparingly-used adjective for a 1-nil affair) to a tight, well-played, clean match for the most part. We might have expected a bit more scoring as the match referee was the same one that worked the United/Everton match last year that ended in a 4 – 4 draw, but it was not to be.
That is not to say the teams didn’t have chances to score. Each team had several chances throughout the remainder of the match, but the defenses on both sides were up to the task. It is looking like cliché week here at IndirectKicks, so here’s mine: this one looked like a heavyweight bout where each fighter takes its opponent’s best shot and then delivers one right back.
In the 7th minute, Rooney sent a free kick towards the goal which was saved by Jaaskelainen, and in the 10th minute Taylor fired from about 6 yards out that was cleared away smartly by Rafael. In the 17th Hernandez, who manged to stay onside for a change, had a great run down the right flank and might have scored with a bit more patience. Back came the Hammers as Carroll, who scored his first for West Ham over the weekend at White Hart Lane, couldn’t quite keep it under the bar.
The rest of the match went as follows:
West Ham would come down the pitch and put some passes together and get a great shot on goal. United would find a way to clear it, be it the back four who without a doubt played their best match of the year so far, or Lindegaard would punch it away. Then United would roll down the pitch and put a shot on goal which Jaaskelainen or the Hammers back four would clear…sending them back down the pitch.
The match would end Manchester United 1 – West Ham 0.
Some other interesting notes:
1. This was the first league match at Old Trafford this year where Manchester United did not score at least 2 goals.
2. West Ham are in the middle of an absolutely brutal stretch. Starting with Tottenham last week, they played Manchester United Wednesday and will face Chelsea, Liverpool, and West Brom consecutively starting this weekend. While they are currently in the top half of the table, they may not remain there for long.
3. This is Lindegaard’s fourth straight start as De Gea recovers from having a couple of wisdom teeth pulled. Ouch. Anders may have earned United’s first clean sheet in their last 11 matches, but I think most United supporters will be happy to have David back shortly.
4. At the 48:17 mark in the match, Jonny Evans was whistled for a foul. Why did that deserve a special note? It was his FIRST of the year…after over 11.5 hours of play. I can think of some managers that would dock him rather than praise him for that!
Manchester Scorecard (0-10)
Rafael Da Silva, 8 – is my man of the match tonight. He has really reached out and grabbed the right back position and made it his own, and tonight he was terrific. Great runs and timely passes with a wonderful touch, and was tenacious in defense on West Ham counters.
van Persie, 7 – scored his 9th league goal of the season and 12th overall. Also provided support and pressure throughout.
Rooney, 7 – was more active tonight both with his shots and his entry passes. Played a terrific game connecting the midfielders and attackers.
Smalling, Evans, Evra, 7 – the back four’s most complete match of the campaign earned the squad that elusive clean sheet.
Lindegaard, 7 – CLEAN SHEET. Although the back four did not require him to be spectacular, he came through with some very good saves when he was called upon.
Anderson, Cleverley, Carrick, Hernandez, 6 – this was a total team effort (one last cliché for the week), and everyone contributed. Although United led throughout and seemed comfortable, no one got complacent on the pitch.