West Ham United 0-2 Manchester United Analysis: Efficient second-half gives Red Devils victory
(Source: Catherine Ivill - AMA)

West Ham United 0-2 Manchester United Analysis: Efficient second-half gives Red Devils victory

Jose Mourinho's side travelled to the Olympic Stadium in hope of continuing their excellent winning run and they collected the three points in a physical affair, but how did they do it?

ninad-barbadikar
Ninad Barbadikar

Manchester United emerged victorious against West Ham as second-half goals from Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic secured all three points in a match marred by poor decision-making from referee Mike Dean.

The first-half saw the home side create the better of the chances and Jose Mourinho's side had David De Gea to thank for some excellent saves.

The Spaniard denied Manuel Lanzini as the Hammers threatened to take the lead, before the unfair dismissal of Sofiane Feghouli early in the first-half changed the game.

Mourinho rang the changes in the second-half and they made the difference as substitutes Marcus Rashford and Mata combined for the first goal, and the second goal was given by the linesman despite Ibrahimovic visibly in an offside position.

Nevertheless, it was another important three points for a United side who have taken maximum points in six successive Premier League games - but how did they go about doing it?

United looked to stretch compact Hammers defense

Slaven Bilic's Hammers made the better start to the game and their trio of Feghouli, Lanzini and Dmitri Payet caused the United defence a few problems early on. 

United looked to press the home side whenever they had the ball and looked to get control of the match with some possession football. Feghouli's controversial dismissal changed the game for Bilic, who then decided to play Michail Antonio in a more advanced role.

The Hammers sat back deep in their defensive third and allowed United to see most of the ball, but the Red Devils struggled to find spaces in behind West Ham's defence with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lingard finding it difficult to break down the Hammers' defensive wall.

With the intent to open up more spaces, Mourinho asked his wingers to get closer to the by-line and stretch West Ham's defence which was thoroughly organised and very compact. This move resulted in United finding it easier to break down the opposition's defence.

The biggest chance in the half for the visitors to take the lead came when Ibrahimovic put in an excellent cross for Mkhitaryan to score. The Armenian shot towards goal but saw his attempt saved by Darren Randolph and the loose ball never found its way into the back of the Hammers' net as Antonio Valencia and Lingard both squandered golden opportunities to give their side the lead.

Mourinho adopts a more attacking approach in second half

In an attempt to break down the stubborn 10-man West Ham team, Mourinho brought off Matteo Darmian and sent on Mata in his place hoping that the little Spaniard could make a difference to their style of play.

To the Portuguese's dismay, Bilic's side still looked very compact and made it almost impossible for United's creative attackers to find spaces to exploit as Ibrahimovic himself was left a frustrated figure during large periods of the game.

In the final half-hour of the game, Mourinho decided to bring on Rashford with a hope that the dynamic young forward could pose a different kind of threat to Bilic's side and the 19-year-old did just that during the time that remained in the second-half.

United were extremely lucky not to go behind a few moments later as Ander Herrera's slip in midfield gave Antonio a clean chance to slot the opener but De Gea proved just why he's been the Player of The Year for United in the past three seasons as he blocked Antonio's effort with an excellent save to hand United a much-needed lifeline.

Rashford makes all the difference

Just moments after Antonio's poor miss, United found themselves with an opportunity to get the opener themselves, Rashford was the late spark that the visitors needed.

Recovering almost immediately from that slip in play, United got on and Rashford picked the ball up on the wings and got the better of Havard Nordtveit and Pedro Obiang with a brilliant piece of play and set up Mata. The diminutive Spaniard curled the ball into the right corner to give the visitors a much-deserved lead that they had toiled for during large parts of the game.

As soon as Mata scored the goal, Mourinho made sure his side would be ready for any attacking onslaught from the Hammers and brought off Chris Smalling for Mkhitaryan in an attempt to solidify his defence against any and all attacks.

United didn't sit back and defend the ball, but rather they were patient in their build-up and waited for the chances to come and their patience was well rewarded when the second goal finally came.

The visitors put the home side under a lot of pressure with chance after chance created and saves from the defenders being made, but eventually their resistance was broken by the big Swede up top for United, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

It was a controversial goal as he was clearly in an offside position when he took the shot and his reluctance to celebrate the goal even showed that he himself wasn't sure of the goal, but it was given and that second goal managed to kill the game off.

Bilic's side were unable to continue their improved run (minus their Leicester defeat) as opposed to Mourinho's men, who managed to get the three points and sustain the pressure on their rivals as they battle on for the top-four this season.

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