Irons impress to earn valuable point at Old Trafford
Manchester United 1-1 West Ham United
Michail Antonio's penalty kick on the stroke of half-time secured West Ham United a solid draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford - and with it, confirmation of their Premier League status for next season.
The Irons were hugely impressive throughout the course of the 90 minutes, soaking up initial pressure to grow into the game and begin to dictate proceedings, while maintaining their defensive discipline throughout.
They received just rewards for that effort shortly before the half-time whistle when, after Paul Pogba inexplicably deflected a Declan Rice strike with his arm, Antonio stepped up to stroke the ball home.
Some admittedly neat interplay from the home side saw Mason Greenwood draw Manchester United level soon after the restart, but West Ham enjoyed the majority of the chances to win the game from then on, and in the end were fully deserving of the point they acquired - at the very least.
Knowing that a draw would mathematically confirm the Hammers’ Premier League status, West Ham manager David Moyes named an unchanged side, looking to build on back-to-back Premier League victories with the trip to Old Trafford.
The Red Devils had also enjoyed a strong run of form since the season restart, and dominated possession early on, with Anthony Martial stinging the palms of Lukasz Fabianski with a low drive from a tight angle.
After West Ham soaked up early pressure, good work from the in-form Antonio won them a corner, and such was the whip on Jarrod Bowen’s delivery, Manchester United captain Harry Maguire was forced to stab away from under his own crossbar.
The Hammers’ graft earned them an offensive foothold in the game, with Bowen’s weaving run from the right forcing Nemanja Matic into a late intervention, moments before Angelo Ogbonna couldn’t quite make enough contact to head in the No17’s clipped delivery.
In a hard-working display, West Ham continued to cover one another well in numbers, aware of the home team’s individual flair – Marcus Rashford having a rare dipping shot from range, which was once again close to Fabianski and simple enough to palm away.
Ogbonna then did superbly to throw his body in the way of a close-range thump from Mason Greenwood, after Brandon Williams had beaten Bowen and pulled the ball back to the penalty spot.
Minutes before the whistle, Johnson put in a wickedly high cross from the right. Antonio towered his marker Victor Lindelof, but the Swedish defender, to his credit, was strong enough to head back to goalkeeper David de Gea under pressure.
Then, in injury time, a breakthrough which capped the Hammers’ excellent display to that point. After a clever free-kick routine set up Declan Rice, the midfielder hit a rocket from range which Paul Pogba put his arms up to deflect.
Upon VAR review, a penalty was duly awarded – and Antonio coolly stepped up and sent de Gea the wrong way for his eighth goal since the season resumption.
It was a perfectly executed first-half game plan from the visitors.
Manchester United were level shortly after the restart, however, when Greenwood played a one-two with Martial and lashed into the bottom corner from just inside the area.
The Irons almost went straight back in front, a wonderful run from Bowen seeing the No17 skip past Williams and cut inside. A red shirt blocked his thunderous strike, looping the ball up for Rice to volley over the bar from 30 yards.
On the hour mark, Bowen drew an excellent save from De Gea, collecting a pass from Noble, evading the challenge of Williams on the outside, and smashing a shot with his right foot high above the keeper – but the Spanish keeper was quick up to tip it over.
After netting a spectacular strike against Watford in his last game, Rice then came close to finding the top corner once more from 25-yards – but his effort didn’t quite have the bend to nestle inside the post, instead finding stanchion.
The better chances were falling West Ham’s way - at one stage the visitors enjoying as much as 73 per cent of the possession in the preceding ten minutes.
The game became more stop-start, however, and as it ticked towards its conclusion, Antonio had the chance to double his tally when he beat Lindelof to Noble’s set piece delivery. Six yards out and under pressure, however, the No30’s contact was misdirected.
Manchester United eventually created a good opening when substitute Odion Ighalo screwed a cut-back from Aaron Wan-Bissaka wide while well-placed, but West Ham were full value for their point in Manchester - and it was a point which put the seal on their superb fightback to form in recent weeks.
West Ham United: Fabianski; Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell (Masuaku 75), Rice, Soucek, Noble ©, Fornals, Bowen (Yarmolenko 90+1), Antonio (Haller 78)
Subs: Randolph (GK), Balbuena, Coventry, Wilshere, Lanzini, Felipe Anderson
Goal: Antonio 45+2 (pen)
Manchester United: De Gea, Fosu-Mensah (Wan-Bissaka 45), Maguire (c), Lindelof, Williams, Matic, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood, Martial, Rashford (Ighalo 85)
Subs: Romero (GK), Dalot, Fred, Mata, McTominay, Lingard, James
Goal: Greenwood 51
Booked: Fosu-Mensah, Rashford, Fernandes