Manchester United helped solidify their place in the top four with a 1-0 win over an in-form West Ham side at Old Trafford.
It was a tentative opening period, with West Ham showing virtually zero ambition in the first half, David Moyes seemingly sending his side out with instructions to sit deep and keep it compact.
The first clear cut opportunity of the match came in 25th minute, Mason Greenwood putting in a delicious cross from the right, only for Marcus Rashford to make an absolute mess of his header at the back post.
Greenwood would have an effort of his own nine minutes before the interval, Manchester United playing some good football straight through the middle of the pitch, the 19-year-old forward curling an effort towards the bottom corner, only for Lukasz Fabianski to get down quickly and tip it onto the post.
The Red Devils would however take the lead eight minutes after the restart, a Bruno Fernandes corner being met by the head of Scott McTominay, his effort deflecting into the back of the net off Craig Dawson.
After trying to sit back and shut up shop for an hour, West Ham finally started to try and play with a bit of positivity. The Hammers looked better, but never really troubled United ‘keeper Dean Henderson – failing to get a shot on target in the entire 90 minutes – while they also left more space in behind, with Greenwood seeing another effort crash back off the post following a swift counter.
Mason Greenwood’s game by numbers vs. West Ham:
95% pass accuracy
5 shots — 4 inside the box
2 x woodwork hit
2 chances created
1 big chance created
An impressive performance despite the goal evading him. 👏 pic.twitter.com/o01ZWAF7bX
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 14, 2021
United were able to see out the game to move back up to second, and perhaps more crucially open up a nine-point lead to fifth-placed West Ham, and speaking afterwards, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said
“It is always hard in the Premier League, but I felt we controlled the game quite well after the first 15 minutes,” he told BBC Sport. “We didn’t start well and couldn’t find a red shirt but the attitude is always there.
“We built pressure and momentum and had enough chances in the end. We earned the spaces. We worked really hard from the front tirelessly. Spaces opened up and then we can see the quality in our players.”
Speaking about the performance of Mason Greenwood, who led the line in the absence of Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani, the Norwegian said: “He deserved a goal he was excellent tonight. He’s getting there. He’s growing and maturing all the time.”
Solskjaer was hopeful to have a number of star players available for selection ‘next week’: “We hope so, we hope to have Edinson [Cavani] and Anthony [Martial] available, maybe Paul [Pogba] and David [de Gea] is finished with quarantine. Not bad players!”
West Ham had as many shots on target against Man Utd this evening as David Moyes has Premier League wins at Old Trafford as a visiting manager.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 14, 2021
The result was the fourth successive clean sheet in the Premier League, the first time Manchester United have achieved that in over three years.
“It tells us we’re a team that work for each other,” said Solskjaer. “It’s never easy to earn a clean sheet. If you have clean sheets you have a good foundation. The front four worked so hard, they were dangerous and pressed really well.”
Next up for United is a trip to the San Siro to face AC Milan in the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie.