Manchester United were looking to get back to winning ways against West Ham, after the Premier League draw against Chelsea.
Erik ten Hag fielded a much-changed starting XI from the Chelsea game, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire and Anthony Elanga coming in for Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Antony, respectively.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s hard-fought win against West Ham.
Encouraging first half
United were undoubtedly the best team in the opening 45 minutes against a defensively stubborn and resilient West Ham side.
The Red Devils mustered a healthy 55% possession of the ball and nine shots at goal with three being on target.
United did well both on the ball and off it and were relatively comfortable with the exception of one or two transition moments that were quickly swept up by the backline.
Ten Hag’s men created a number of chances, and on another day could have had more than one goal heading into the break.
The deadlock was broken just seven minutes before half-time as Marcus Rashford rose highest, towering above a fabulous Christian Eriksen cross to fire the ball into the back of the West Ham net.
The goal was a significant one for Rashford as it was his hundredth goal for his boyhood club. A remarkable achievement for the Englishman who has been in exquisite form this campaign.
100 GOALS FROM OUR VERY OWN, MARCUS RASHFORD. 💫
𝙈𝙖𝙣𝙘 𝙗𝙤𝙧𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙗𝙧𝙚𝙙. ✨ pic.twitter.com/AnkudkII3g
— centredevils. (@centredevils) October 30, 2022
The forward, who turns 25 tomorrow, came close on a number of other occasions but made no mistake from Eriksen’s cross to give United a foothold in the game.
Against a physical and aggressive Hammers side, Ten Hag and certainly supporters would have been pleased with the first half.
United seriously lack quality squad depth/options
Most supporters will agree that heading into the season, United were extremely thin and lacking in most departments of the pitch.
However, the West Ham clash tonight made it more glaring and apparent. In the absence of a select core of regular starters, the drop-off in quality was massive.
Elanga, who came in for the injured Antony, barely had any impact and it was no surprise he was the first to be taken off.
Maguire, who Ten Hag confirmed before the game was only present as a result of Victor Lindelof’s illness, failed to inspire any confidence in his first start since returning from an injury.
Ronaldo, like Elanga, was almost non-existent and was a dormant passenger for most parts of the contest. On the bench, Ten Hag did not have any centre-back and was limited to Jadon Sancho and Alejandro Garnacho as his offensive alternatives.
However talented Garnacho is, he is still young and it’s understandable why the manager would keep him from such a high-stakes affair.
The lack of quality options is a big problem that the club must address in both the January and the summer transfer windows.
The lack of depth is a huge hindrance to Ten Hag who has had to make do with makeshift and quick-fix solutions such as playing Fernandes, naturally a playmaker, in the right-wing position.
Diogo Dalot and Lisandro Martinez solid defensively
In the second half, United were a far cry from their more-dominant first half, as David Moyes’ players stepped up the pressure in the search for an equalizer.
The Reds were more than tested by the London club, who fashioned numerous opportunities in their quest for a share of the points.
United fans have Lisandro Martinez and Diogo Dalot to thank for the side’s defensive masterclass.
The duo came up with scores of heroic tackles, blocks and interceptions to ensure the team emerged with all three points.
Another was David de Gea who was called to action and responded appropriately.
Dalot and Martinez in their spirited defensive showing were certainly United’s most outstanding players of the night. They will take a large chunk of the plaudits and rightly so.