BY CIARAN CONNEELY, SPORTS STAFFER
Manchester United continued its good form with a 1-0 vs. West Ham at Old Trafford on Sunday. Unlike the 3-0 vs. FC Sheriff on Thursday, United were not dominant throughout the game. This match showed how a good defense can go a long way for a Premier League side. While the Red Devils had to dig their heels in for the final 10 minutes, they managed to continue their unbeaten run.
Both sides had organized defenses that made chances scarce in the first half. After West Ham gave away possession in the 15th minute, Marcus Rashford bore down on West Ham’s goal but saw his shot blocked by Tomas Soucek. A minute later, Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot whipped in a cross to Rashford, whose header was an easy save for Lukasz Fabianski. But Rashford made amends for his missed chance. In the 38th minute of the game, Manchester United had a throw-in. Dalot threw the ball to Christian Eriksen, who combined a couple of passes with Bruno Fernandes before crossing the ball into the West Ham box. Rashford rose high and thumped the ball into the back of the net, giving the Red Devils the lead just before half-time. After scoring against West Ham, Rashford reached 100 goals for Manchester United, becoming the 22nd player to hit 100 goals for the club.
West Ham tested Manchester United’s defense several times in the final 10 minutes of the game. West Ham’s captain, Declan Rice, sent in a freekick toward Craig Dawson, but his shot was blocked by Lisandro Martinez. Several minutes later, Michail Antonio drove past United’s midfield before launching a shot that was tipped over by David de Gea. West Ham earned a free kick in the 84th minute of the game. Aaron Cresswell sent in a ball that was attacked by Kurt Zouma. Zouma’s header looked to be going in the net before de Gea clawed the ball away with a jaw-dropping save.
West Ham’s barrage of attacks continued into stoppage time. Jarrod Bowen fired a shot on net that was cleared by Manchester United’s captain, Harry Maguire. In the dying embers of the game, West Ham sent one last ball into the box. Maguire cleared the ball, but it fell outside the box to Declan Rice. Rice smashed a shot toward goal, but de Gea palmed it wide for a corner kick. United dealt with the set-piece, and the final whistle blew.
After beating West Ham, Manchester United extended their unbeaten run to eight matches in all competitions. A vintage performance from de Gea gave United its fifth clean sheet in the Premier League, and fifth clean sheet in the past seven games. The Red Devils haven’t conceded a home goal in over 400 minutes. United haven’t lost a match at Old Trafford since September 8 against Real Sociedad. This win took Manchester United to fifth place in the Premier League, and the team now sits one point outside of the top four.
Manchester United’s next game is against Real Sociedad on Thursday in the Europa League. United must win the game to secure automatic qualification into the knockout stages of the competition. Any other result means the Red Devils would have to compete in a playoff tie, something they would want to avoid with the congestion of fixtures before and after the FIFA World Cup in November.