Manchester United have spurned the opportunity to keep their destiny in their own hands in the race to finish in the top four of the Premier League as West Ham United beat them 3-2 in a thrilling final fixture at Upton Park this evening.
A frantic start saw Diafra Sahko give West Ham the lead when his shot took a deflection off Daley Blind before it fizzed past David de Gea. Blind then played Andy Carroll onside as he raced through one-on-one but the striker’s effort was weak and De Gea saved. Moments later, Michail Antonio had a goal ruled out after the ball was adjudged to have strayed out of play. But Man United managed to get through the onslaught and Marcus Rashford’s header came close to levelling the score.
United did manage to get the equaliser just after the break as Rashford and Juan Mata combined to tee up Anthony Martial, who tapped into an open net. West Ham soon had a golden opportunity to restore their lead but Sahko contrived to head over with the goal gaping. Martial then bagged a second as he beat Winston Reid before squeezing the ball past Darren Randolph and into the net. United’s tails were up but their lead didn’t last for long as Antonio headed in Dimitri Payet’s free kick. And moments later, Reid sealed the win for West Ham with another header.
Martial bagged two goals to underline just how important he is to this United side but it wasn’t enough for van Gaal’s outfit.
So often the shining light for this season, it is ludicrous that United have had to rely on someone so young. The inquest into United’s debacle of a campaign will now begin in earnest but there is no doubt that Martial has consistently been their most dangerous and effective player.
The hosts flew out of the traps in their last ever game at Upton Park, bombarding the United goal and taking the lead early on. Louis van Gaal’s side, in contrast, looked insipid and devoid of any fight. They were very lucky that the Hammers weren’t 3-0 up at half time. Things got better in the second half but only briefly as the home side eventually overwhelmed their opponents.
The way that United have crumbled under pressure early on in games this season has been worrying and it was no different against West Ham.
Rested against Norwich, Rashford looked full of energy at Upton Park, putting in a hardworking performance up top. And he played a key role in both of United’s goals.
First of all, Rashford’s good work eventually led to United’s equaliser as he held the ball up for Mata before the Spaniard squared for Martial. Secondly, he passed the ball onto Martial and he did the rest.
For someone so young, Rashford has a mightily intelligent head on his shoulders. It is just a shame his efforts were in vain.
Top four hopes suffer huge setback
The result meant that United spurned the opportunity to keep matters in their own hands in the race to finish in the top four.
They are now relying on Manchester City to lose to Swansea City on the final day, a scenario that looks unlikely. Van Gaal’s future at the club will now come under serious doubt, if it wasn’t before.