Festive fun at home. Manchester United exploded onto the game from the first whistle today to put West Ham United immediately on the back foot and only a world class save stopped United going ahead within two minutes through Tom Cleverley.
United didn’t take their foot off the gas and were rewarded with a brilliant Danny Welbeck goal after lovely interplay with Wayne Rooney which was soon followed by another quality goal from Adnan Januzaj who smartly finished on his weaker foot.
In reality, United could have scored three or four in the first half.
In the second, we took the foot of the gas and invited West Ham forward but were the team to score next thanks to a stunning finish by Ashley Young.
Unfortunately, a defensive lapse from Alexander Buttner played Carlton Cole onside and he ran through to finish. United were good value for the clean sheet so that was a disappointment.
Welbeck’s getting amongst it. That’s three goals in two Premier League matches for Welbeck and his first goal at Old Trafford in 14 months, and he looked like scoring with every opportunity.
His goal showed everything that is strong about his game – an intelligent back-heel started the chance before he ran into space and had the confidence to finish powerfully with his weaker left foot.
Typically, Welbeck had to go off with what looked like a muscle injury to curtail his return to form but up until he went off, he looked very sharp and confident in his natural position as the striker where he has thrived in Robin van Persie‘s absence.
Old Trafford has been waiting for that. This season, United have been very lethargic on the whole at home but against West Ham, we started the game in top gear and it was wave after wave of attacks against West Ham who couldn’t do anything to stop us.
Especially down the right hand side, United attacked with panache and pace with the partnership of Rafael and Valencia causing West Ham’s defence all sorts of problems.
That was only the second time this season United scored three at Old Trafford and it was all down to the excellent first half performance.
Although it would have been good to see United continue flowing forward in the second half, we sat back and played on the counter-attack and given the result, it was a vindicated decision.
Phil Jones continues to thrive in midfield. Last year at Upton Park, Rooney played in central midfield and was bossed around by Diame which made it very difficult to take control of the game.
Today, Jones was imperious in midfield and the roles were reversed – Diame was on the receiving end of a midfield schooling and Jones was deservedly named man of the match for his efforts.
He covered every blade of grass and showed his ability once again as a no nonsense box to box midfielder. If he wasn’t putting in a well timed tackle or interception, he was running forward and supplementing the attack. It really was such an assured performance from Jones.
We all know Jones wants to play as a centre back in the future but with performances like that, Moyes simply has to keep playing him in midfield.
Smalling and Evans are our first choice defensive pairing. Smalling and Evans haven’t been used very often alongside each other by Moyes this season but they showed today just how impressive they are.
Evans will have some bruises in the morning after being kicked for the whole game by West Ham players but it didn’t effect his performance and, if anything, he thrived on the physicality as did Smalling who played particularly well.
The trio of Smalling and Evans with the protection of Jones made it difficult for West Ham to get any opportunities through the middle. That has been one of our biggest weaknesses in recent years so it was great to see that we can stop it from happening.