Yarmolenko and Cresswell strike against Man Utd to send Hammers surging
West Ham United 2-0 Manchester United
Brilliantly-taken strikes from Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell gave West Ham United a deserved 2-0 victory over Manchester United at London Stadium.
The result temporarily lifted the Irons up to to fourth place in the Premier League table, and proved a convincing riposte to those billing the match as an acid test for West Ham's European credentials.
The Hammers played with a desire and purpose that was ultimately capped by two well-executed left-footed finishes: Yarmolenko's crisp strike finishing off an incisive move just before half-time, and Cresswell bending in a perfectly-placed free-kick with five minutes remaining.
West Ham had entered the contest level on points with the Red Devils and, undefeated in five games in all competitions, seeking their best start to a Premier League season since 2015/16.
Manuel Pellegrini mentioned in his pre-match press conference that goalscorer Cresswell was likely to return to his starting eleven in place of the suspended Arthur Masuaku, and the Chilean was true to his word, the young English defender impressing in a defence vying for its fourth consecutive clean sheet in all competitions - the first occurrence of this since February 2014.
Summer signing Pablo Fornals was also granted his second Premier League start in a Claret and Blue shirt looking to break down Manchester United's expensively-assembled defence, but the game struggled for rhythm inside the first twenty minutes in an exchange high on industry, but lacking in incision.
Both sides' midfields effectively cancelled one another out, Declan Rice and Mark Noble in particular screening the back four with impressive diligence to deny Manchester United any time on the ball in the final third.
The visitors had the first real spell of sustained pressure after a quarter of the game played, Marcus Rashford skipping beyond the challenge of Fredericks near the touchline. The English striker’s pace looked to be taking him in on goal, only for Rice to hold his England international team-mate up and nick the ball away with typical precision.
Moments later, and another instance of superb last-gasp defending from the Hammers: Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s in-swinging ball from the right seemed to be nestling perfectly onto the head of the onrushing Rashford, only for Issa Diop to spring in front of him athletically and see it out for a corner.
The game then settled back into a wrestle for control, with West Ham backed by an almost 60,000 - and typically vociferous - Claret and Blue faithful.
Fornals looked to have teed up the Irons’ greatest moment of inspiration in the first period, floating a free-kick from wide left to the edge of the area. Noble’s volley had the right direction but, under oncoming pressure, lacked the purchase necessary to beat David de Gea.
Noble’s influence on proceedings was growing as he found himself higher and higher up the pitch, and that intent - combined with the captain's significant experience - resulted in the first goal moments before the half-time whistle.
The momentum behind the move on 44 minutes looked to have died when Noble opted to bide his time and wait for an opening, but this did not prove so when he passed inside to Anderson on the edge of the area. The Brazilian’s cute first-time lofted pass found Andriy Yarmolenko inside the area, and the Ukrainian’s deft touches were swift, controlling away from Maguire before steering the ball inside de Gea’s far post.
The second half started at a brighter tempo with both sides showing more purpose on the ball, and the Hammers enjoyed an early let-off when Juan Mata missed a gilt-edged chance at the far post, failing to convert Andreas Pereira’s whipped cross merely yards from goal.
Immediately up the other Yarmolenko almost doubled his afternoon's tally when Anderson’s low ball ran all the way across the area to him, the Ukrainian cutting inside and hitting a deflected shot which caused some consternation for de Gea.
Anderson then nearly scored in his fourth consecutive games against the Red Devils 13 minutes later, picking up on a loose header from Young, exchanging passes with Yarmolenko and smashing the return ball straight at De Gea from a tight angle on the right, but the Spaniard was there to beat it away.
Chances became more prominent in the final quarter, and Fabianski was called on twice to display his Hammer of the Year credentials with just over 20 minutes remaining, first denying Scott McTominay’s near-post drive and then spreading his feet sensationally to stop Harry Maguire converting a loose ball from close range.
The Pole put in another excellent display in the West Ham goal, moments later rushing from his line to close down James before Yarmolenko got back to deny substitute Lingard on the follow-up.
Those proved to be crucial interventions as Cresswell provided the ultimate pay-off for his manager's faith with just over five minutes remaining on the clock, curling in a beautifully dipping free-kick from 25 yards past De Gea's despairing dive into the top-right corner.
While the heavens would open at London Stadium, nothing could dampen the spirits of the West Ham supporters who witnessed an excellent overall team display - that aforementioned acid test passed with aplomb.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Fredericks (Zabaleta 80), Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko (Snodgrass 89), Fornals, Anderson (Wilshere 70), Haller
Subs: Roberto, Balbuena, Sanchez, Ajeti
Goals: Yarmolenko 44, Cresswell 84
Booked: Ogbonna, Noble
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Young, Matic (Fred 71), McTominay, Mata (Gomes 81), Pereira, James, Rashford (Lingard 61)
Subs: Romero, Rojo, Tuanzebe, Chong
Booked: Mata, Young
Referee: Anthony Taylor