Manchester United vs West Ham: Five things we learned as Red Devils earn extra time FA Cup win

Man United 1-0 West Ham: Scott McTominay nets the winner in extra time

Karl Matchett
Tuesday 09 February 2021 22:05
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Scott McTominay celebrates his winner for Man United
Scott McTominay celebrates his winner for Man United

Manchester United needed extra time to beat West Ham 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round.

The home team were entirely dominant in a one-sided first half, but there was little end product to that dominance of possession. The second half was a more even affair in terms of territory, but quality chances on goal were few and far between.

Victor Lindelof saw a header deflected then saved, while the Hammers suffered a series of injuries which forced David Moyes into substitutions and tactical reshuffles.

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Marcus Rashford spurned a great one-on-one chance at one end and Pablo Fornals couldn't find a telling pass when his side countered three-on-two at the other, with the 90 minutes ending goalless. Shortly into extra time, a counter-attack ended with Scott McTominay burying a first-time finish and that proved enough to send the Red Devils through.

Here are five things we learned from the clash at Old Trafford.

Van de Beek's lack of impact

It's easy to point to a new signing who is out of the team and, when they are finally handed a start, criticise them for not performing well.

But almost from the first minute, it was clear Donny van de Beek would struggle to impact immediately for Man United.

West Ham were outrageously defensive, seven often strung along the edge of their box in the first half, leaving no room for the Dutchman to find spaces between the lines and little opportunity for him to play clever combination passes with his attackers.

Add in a lack of confidence and rhythm as a direct result of not being in the team and it's not a surprise the game largely passed him by, despite some industrious off-the-ball work.

Overly negative and opportunity missed

West Ham came into this game in at least as good form as Man United, with four wins from their last six in the Premier League and just six points separating the sides.

It was a surprise, then, to see them be so negative, have such a reductive approach to the first half. It clearly wasn't by design, as David Moyes made significant changes at the break, pushing his team to a back three to add support higher upfield for the attack and trying to get the likes of Tomas Soucek into more influential areas of the pitch.

Did it work? To an extent. They were able to defend from midfield rather than their penalty box, and had a couple of extra out-balls to play through.

But there was a lack of desire to take risks and force the outcome of the game from both sides, meaning a rare missed chance for the Hammers to really give themselves a reasonable chance of dreaming of a trophy.

Lacking inspiration

An out-of-favour No. 10 isn't the only reason the home side failed to create too many meaningful chances.

With Bruno Fernandes left on the bench and Paul Pogba injured, there was a real emphasis on United's forward line producing, and finishing, their own chances.

The three mobile, versatile attackers fell woefully short. Mason Greenwood was bright in flashes, but ultimately on the fringes of the game. Anthony Martial made several intelligent runs, but rarely sa a pass come his way. And Rashford wasted the only real opening of the 90 minutes, panicking and shooting straight at Lukasz Fabianski when one-on-one.

Predictably, Edinson Cavani and Fernandes were summoned from the bench late on, but over 90 minutes United created next to nothing and their reliance on a couple of players in this regard is somewhat startling.

Positive performers

There's no point hiding the fact: it was a game low on quality, low on chances and low on intent to win for far too long. But that doesn't mean that nobody played well.

Craig Dawson continues to show what an astute addition he has been to the West Ham side, producing a committed and reliable showing at the heart of a defensive line which was forced into two or three alterations.

Alex Telles was decent for United, an outlet at times and always looking to deliver an early ball into the box - though runners were sadly lacking.

Lukasz Fabianski put in a good showing, opposite number Dean Henderson was safe and reliable with the little he had to do and, of the many subs used, Ryan Fredericks was a lively outlet for the away team and McTominay continued a season of good impact in the final third with his clinical finish.

Silverware chances

For the Hammers, it's now 16 games without a win in all competitions when they visit Old Trafford - and they never looked like ending that run here.

Man United, on the other hand, go through to the last eight of the FA Cup and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope this will prove to be an opportunity to end his own little run of disappointments: four semi-final defeats in cup competitions.

They have another round to get through before that stage, with the quarter-final draw taking place later this week, but there won't be too many teams who United will fear - especially if those opponents show the same reserved approach that West Ham did here.

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