Five things we loved about West Ham's performance at Manchester United
1.Safety has been secured
While West Ham United did not win at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening, there were plenty of reasons to reflect positively on the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
Firstly, and most importantly, West Ham are now mathematically safe from relegation from the Premier League and will now spend a tenth consecutive season in the top-flight in 2020/21.
The point gained on Wednesday took David Moyes’ side up to 38 points, four ahead of 18th-place Watford, with one game left to play, at home to 17th-place Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon.
When the Scot was appointed in late December, West Ham were in freefall, having dropped from fifth at the end of September to 17th following the 2-1 home defeat by Leicester City on 28 December – their ninth defeat in 12 Premier League matches.
As he did in 2017/18, the experienced manager set about stabilising things, instilling a work ethic into his squad that has stood them in good stead, particularly during and since the COVID-19 lockdown.
Since the return of Premier League football a month ago, the Hammers have played with purpose, desire and, at vital times, real quality, to collect eleven points from their last six matches and climb clear of the bottom three.
While Moyes has rightly stated that staying up is not necessarily something to celebrate, being in the Premier League is also vitally important to this Club and everyone associated with it, and safety means the manager, his staff and the Board can start planning in earnest for next season.
2. Michail Antonio can’t stop scoring!
Michail Antonio’s penalty at Old Trafford took his tally for July to eight goals in six Premier League appearances – and with one game still to play the No30 has history in his sights.
The record for a West Ham United player in a single calendar month is ten, which is held jointly by Jimmy Ruffell, who scored all his goals in Division Two in seven games played December 1934, Sir Geoff Hurst, who netted seven in four Division One fixtures and a League Cup hat-trick against Leeds United in November 1966, and Johnny Byrne, who scored seven in Division One and a League Cup hat-trick against Workington in December 1963.
So, after netting the first spot-kick of his professional career on Wednesday, two goals in the final-day fixture with Aston Villa at London Stadium and the 30-year-old will join that illustrious trio, and almost certainly finish as West Ham’s leading scorer for the first time.
3. Declan Rice produced the goods – again!
While Michail Antonio scored West Ham United’s goal at Old Trafford, it was Declan Rice who was statistically the Hammers’ best player on the night, according to analytics website WhoScored.
The 21-year-old continued his outstanding form, making four tackles, four interceptions, two clearances, completing 40 of his 45 passes and even unleashing three shots at David De Gea’s goal.
Overall, Rice now ranks fourth in the Premier League in both tackles and interceptions made this season.
In this most disrupted of seasons, Rice will also become the first West Ham United player since Aaron Cresswell in 2014/15 to play every possible minute of Premier League football if he completes Sunday’s fixture with Aston Villa.
The No41 has started and finished all 37 games so far, making him one of just seven top-flight outfield players to spend all 3,330 minutes on the pitch. The other six? Sheffield United’s George Baldock, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Conor Coady, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, Burnley’s James Tarkowski, Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse and Manchester United’s Harry Maguire.
4. The Johnson/Bowen combination
It is early days, but the signs are there that Ben Johnson and Jarrod Bowen could form a potent on-pitch partnership down the right flank.
In the 3-1 win over Watford, Johnson made his first Premier League start of the season and played his part at both ends of the pitch.
In addition to a solid defensive performance, the 20-year-old also got forward regularly, most notably finding Bowen before making an overlapping run that allowed the winger to cross for Tomáš Souček to score West Ham’s second goal.
Against Manchester United, the pair combined well again, blunting the threat posed by Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and left-back Brandon Williams.
Bowen’s non-stop running and defensive work-rate not only slowed the Red Devils, but also provided a regular outlet for the Hammers down their right flank, and only a miraculous fingertip save from David De Gea denied the No17 a deserved goal.
5. Mark Noble or Alessandro Del Piero?
Mark Noble has flourished in a more advanced role in recent matches, playing in the ‘Number ten’ position ahead of Declan Rice and Tomáš Souček.
The skipper returned to the starting XI after a three-game absence at Norwich City, where he registered two assists for Michail Antonio, played eight key passes and inspired his team to a vital 4-0 Premier League victory.
After providing another assist, this time for Declan Rice, in the 3-1 home win over Watford, the 33-year-old was at it again at Manchester United.
There, he completed 57 of his team-high 66 passes and three of four crosses, and played three times as many key passes (six) than any other player on the pitch, on either side!
Noble’s performance earned lavish praise from Sky Sports commentator and Manchester United and England great Gary Neville, who compared the captain to Juventus and Italy legend Alessandro Del Piero.