Manchester United managed to rebound from their poor run of form, defeating West Ham United 2-1 at Old Trafford. The Red Devils were ultimately lucky to grab all three points, however, as they benefited from a number of refereeing decisions.
It won’t matter much to fans, as the crucial victory puts United back in the thick of the top four race for the final Champions League qualification spot.
The first big moment in the contest came when West Ham had a goal incorrectly called back for offside. Javier Hernandez fluffed his lines in the area, but the ball found its way to Felipe Anderson who volleyed home. The flag went up on the sideline, but replays showed he was being kept onside by Diogo Dalot on the opposite side of the field.
United would take the lead from the spot soon after when Robert Snodgrass took out Juan Mata in the area. The referee gave the pen, and Paul Pogba stepped up and smashed it down the middle.
West Ham were the better side in the first half, and they were better to start the second as well. They got their goal within minutes after Manuel Lanzini picked out Felipe Anderson at the back post, who volleyed home from close range to tie the game.
West Ham thought they grabbed a winner with 15 minutes to go. A cross picked out Michael Antonio, who got his header on target. David De Gea was able to react, getting his hand up to block the effort and get it out for a corner.
It would be United who ended up scoring the final goal of the contest. They were awarded another penalty when Anthony Martial was hacked down in the area, and the referee had no other choice than to point to the spot. Pogba stepped up and slammed it home for a second time to grab his brace and give the home side the lead and the crucial three points.
Another poor performance
The Red Devils might’ve won, but they were second best throughout the contest. The stats showed that, as West Ham had 58% possession while winning eight more corners.
They really should’ve scored more than one, and a better team would’ve made United pay for the way they played. The Red Devils had lost four out of their last five in all competitions and looked like a shell of the team that dominates during Ole Gunnar Solskjaers first few weeks at the club.
Great teams pick up points when they don’t necessarily deserve it, but some will rightly worry about the fact that United were outplayed at Old Trafford.
Paul Pogba has become an enigma
The Frenchman has been a prevalent figure in the media in recent weeks after his comments on possibly joining Real Madrid.
The focus was on Pogba today, and it’s tough to judge his performance. He was poor in the midfield and was losing out to Declan Rice and Mark Noble in the midfield on several occasions.
However, he was crucial in scoring both goals for the Red Devils, stepping up when needed and converting the two penalties. He will need to be better if United want any chance of beating Barcelona during the week, and it will be interesting to see how Solskjaer uses him on Tuesday night.
Onwards and upwards
At the end of the day, Manchester picked up the much needed three points. They were in danger of falling out of the top four race, but a win against the Hammers puts them back into the thick of things. They now only sit two points behind Chelsea, who face Liverpool on Sunday, and three points behind Spurs who are dealing with a number of injury problems.
United will have to win most of their games if they want any chance of getting into the top four, but the win vs West Ham could go a long way in securing Champions League football for next season.