Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United: Dawson own-goal takes United back to second in league
The Manchester United players celebrating the only goal of the match | Photo by Peter Powell - Pool/Getty Images

Manchester United gained a six-point advantage on fourth-place Chelsea, as a Craig Dawson own-goal saw the Reds win 1-0 against West Ham United at Old Trafford

The scoreline, however, did not reflect the dominant performance that United had in both defence and attack. 

It was a result and performance that was needed with the injuries that United have sustained of late and the disappointing game that was played out against AC Milan on Thursday in the Europa League.

Story of the game

The match at Old Trafford was a slow burner as neither side were really able to create any real chances in the opening minutes.

Yet as the half proceeded, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United began to stamp their authority on the match and they were unlucky not to go ahead on 23 minutes when Mason Greenwood delivered a wonderful cross from the right-side to Marcus Rashford at the back post, but the winger, who returned from a short injury for the game, was unable to find the target. 

Then, Greenwood changed from the provider and almost put the Red Devils ahead with a good strike from the edge of the box.

Dean Henderson launched a quick United attack similar to the one that saw them double their lead against Manchester City last week. The ball eventually found it's way to Greenwood on the right side of the box, who's curling shot into the bottom left-hand corner was denied by Lukasz Fabianski

While they were not rewarded for their dominance in the first-half, it was not long after the interval that United went in front and it was, in fact, an own goal from Dawson, who has had a solid season for David Moyes' side, that opened the scoring. 

After Greenwood put in a teasing cross, it was almost put into Fabianski's net by Vladimir Coufal but he managed to guide it behind for a United corner. The resulting corner, though, saw Bruno Fernandes whip in the ball and Scott McTominay connected - but his header was guided in with the help of a deflected header from Dawson. 

Fernandes was close to doubling the Reds' lead minutes later as his fierce strike from the edge of the box was well saved by the impressive Fabianski. 

Former Reds manager, Moyes, wouldn't have been impressed with his side until they began to take some control of the game as the second half progressed, and they looked like they were close to levelling the score when Aaron Cresswell found Jarrod Bowen in the box, but he was unable to adjust his header towards Henderson's goal - although West Ham's number 20 was flagged as offside after the play finished. 

The Hammers continued to probe and attack but Harry Maguire helped lead his defence to their 20th clean sheet of the season. 

The skipper denied West Ham on two occasions when they looked to fire low crosses into the area, and also made an important block in the 79th minute when Tomas Soucek tried to strike the ball from the edge of the box. 

However, United could've finished the game minutes earlier, when Rashford found Greenwood on the counter on the left side and the 19-year-old drove into the visitor's third. He made his way into the box and struck the ball towards the near post, but it fired off the post and gave West Ham a lifeline. 

But it was a professional end to the match for Solskjaer's reds, as they secured an important three points against the Champions League-chasing Hammers. 

20 clean sheets show defensive improvements for United

It was the 20th clean sheet of the season for the Red Devils and it was the 12th in the Premier League. However, Solskjaer's side have six clean sheets in their last nine league fixtures and they are showing their improvements at the back. 

West Ham barely were able to find a way past United, and that was shown by their expected goals (xG) of just 0.61, according to the xGPhilosophy.

While Victor Lindelof has been criticised and is not considered to be the best partner for Maguire, he was calm and composed in this win and showed why Solskjaer is keeping trust with the Swede. 

It was ultimately, a good performance from United and helped them solidify a six-point lead on fourth place, Chelsea. Meanwhile, David Moyes will not be happy with the performance from his side, but that might be a fine indicator of how far they've climbed this season, rather than them being poor. They are still just three points behind Chelsea and have a game-in-hand on the Blues.

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