Manchester United traveled to the London Stadium today to take on West Ham as the battle for a Champions League finish rages on.
After Newcastle were beaten by Arsenal, the Red Devils had the chance to leapfrog the Magpies and go into third position.
Erik ten Hag made a few personnel changes from the team that started at the Amex against Brighton a few days ago.
David de Gea started in goal with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and Tyrell Malacia ahead of the Spaniard.
Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes formed the midfield trio.
Wout Weghorst led the line with Marcus Rashford and Antony on either side of the Dutch striker.
Martial, Dalot and Fred dropped and replaced by Malacia, Eriksen and Weghorst. Bold team selection by Ten Hag! #WHUMUN #ThePeoplesPerson #MustWin #WeggysBack pic.twitter.com/4HQGT8ydnm
— The Peoples Person (@_peoplesperson_) May 7, 2023
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat against West Ham.
Extending De Gea’s contract would be counterproductive and a massive mistake
United went into the break a goal down courtesy of a goal from Said Benrahma. The Algerian embarked on a run before firing a relatively tame shot towards United’s goal.
A diving De Gea however made a mess of it and spilled it into his own net – a massive howler that effectively put Ten Hag’s men on the backfoot after a superb start on hostile grounds.
De Gea’s mistake was the most prominent during a half in which his limitations and shortcomings were on full display, as they have been for large parts of this season.
The 32-year-old constantly went long, meaning his teammates were unable to muster any meaningful spells of possession and control.
During the few instances that he elected to pass out from the back, De Gea’s passes were mostly short and lacked the sufficient weight to reach their intended targets.
West Ham’s attackers, seemingly aware and conscious of De Gea’s inability to play with his feet, were all too happy to aggressively press in an effort to force mistakes out of the United number one and his defenders – a tactic they executed to perfection.
At this point, it beats any logical reason why Ten Hag and United are actively looking to tie down De Gea to a new deal.
He has proven time and time again that he is unable to play the brand of football the Dutch coach wants to implement at Old Trafford.
De Gea has had ample opportunities to prove his worth and show signs of improvement but against the backdrop of irrefutable evidence, the Spain international is simply unable to.
No matter how well United play, they will always be susceptible to being breached as long as De Gea is in between the sticks.
As high of a priority as a striker is this summer, so is a goalkeeper. United cannot afford to line up with De Gea next season and a new recruit in this position must be procured.
Ten Hag must be ruthless and if he sanctions a new deal for De Gea, questions must also be asked of the United boss.
A parting of ways between United and De Gea must take place so the mediocrity that the player perpetuates with every game doesn’t continue well into next season.
United’s attack uninspiring yet again
One of the biggest criticisms from the Reds’ defeat against Brighton was the attacking line’s lacklustre nature in front of goal.
This theme translated into the West Ham game.
Ten Hag’s shifting of Fernandes into forward roles at the expense of putting Weghorst in the 10 did not bear any fruit.
Weghorst possessed little to no threat and it’s no surprise that the Burnley loanee was the first to be taken off. His replacement, Anthony Martial was not any better. The Frenchman had a golden chance to restore parity in the dying embers of the game but Fabianski denied him.
Rashford struggled to make an impact. The Englishman emerged second-best in most of his take-ons and duels.
Even Rashford’s usual excellent play with Martial was non-existent and for United fans, it’s a concern that their talisman seems to be running out of fuel during the most crucial part of the campaign.
Antony and Eriksen had opportunities to give their side the lead but both players sent their chances begging.
Again, United’s desperate need for a striker stuck out. That so many clear-cut goalscoring ventures are not being taken and United are in the process, dropping crucial points as a result, is a big issue.
It now falls on Ten Hag to come up with a solution that will enable his forwards to gel and click as United seek to get over the line with four games left to play.
Top four is in serious jeopardy
United’s top four ambitions are now firmly at risk following their back-to-back defeats against Brighton and now West Ham.
Liverpool are now just a point below the 20-time English champions, although the Merseyside club have played a game more.
United have been within grasp of a top four finish all term and anything less than that would effectively render the season a failure.
There is little to no room for error as the season draws to an end.