As far as dream debuts for goalkeepers go, achieving a clean sheet against Manchester United in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford must certainly rank quite highly among them.
Alphonse Areola’s big-game credentials were never in doubt after making more than 250 career appearances for the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid and helping his national team to win the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
But the Frenchman still rose to the occasion of his first West Ham United game – an outstanding victory over the Red Devils in the north-west on Wednesday – slotting in seamlessly to a diligent backline and keeping the hosts’ forwards at bay.
Called upon to make several impressive saves, most importantly from Mason Greenwood midway through the second half, Areola’s debut in Claret and Blue was certainly one to remember.
“It was a big game – a crazy game – for the whole team,” the 28-year-old told West Ham TV. “I was happy to make my debut here, and let’s keep going!
“I think it was a really big job tonight from everyone. The most important thing is to win, and I think we have a good team, a good atmosphere and a good attitude, so we deserve what happened here.”
Despite Manchester United having 27 efforts on goal during the course of the evening, only six of those were on target, the majority coming from range as the Hammers’ defensive shape and efforts prevented their hosts from making serious inroads into the area.
Areola therefore paid tribute to the commitment and discipline his team displayed in keeping hold of the early lead that Manuel Lanzini’s ninth-minute goal granted them.
“We deserved that,” Areola said of the strike.
“We built up to the game and we had the chance to score. We did it, and we kept that goal intact with a clean sheet, so it was a big performance from the team.
“It was all about the attitude. We showed that we were there for something – for the win – and we put all our minds and all our bodies to try to stop every shot and to win that game.
“I had some work to do, so I was happy to help the team like that. Let’s keep going with the team and let’s prepare for the game that’s coming really soon [against Leeds United on Saturday].”
Victory at Old Trafford keeps West Ham invested in four competitions this season, with the Irons subsequently drawn against Manchester City in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup to go with successful openings to their Premier League and UEFA Europa League campaigns.
Next up is a trip to Leeds United and Elland Road on Saturday.
Areola concluded: “We’re playing in all the competitions, so we put all our bodies and all our minds towards that, and we’ll try to go as far as possible.
“We are competitors, so we’re here for that, for the win, and as I said the most important thing is that the team is happy. We have to enjoy what we did tonight and focus now on Saturday.”