After 18 attempts and 14 years, West Ham United have won at Old Trafford again at last.
Manchester United had reached successive semi-finals in the Carabao Cup, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t have to worry about this being another nearly competition this year after his side were beaten 1-0 on home soil.
Not since May 2007 and Solskjaer’s last Premier League game as a player for United had West Ham been able to celebrate come the full-time whistle at this stadium; there were plenty of smiles from the away side this time though, particularly after extremely recent events. This was the second time in just a few days that the two sides were meeting, after the weekend encounter in London. There, the storylines were plentiful: Jesse Lingard netting the winner against the club he thrived with last season on loan and David de Gea saving a last-minute penalty to preserve a 2-1 victory.
The Hammers felt they should have been better rewarded on that occasion; here they made sure it was so, even despite some horrendous late profligacy.
The villain of the piece from 12 yards off the bench at the London Stadium, Mark Noble, started this time around - but it was his midfield partner Alex Kral who impressed most amid a host of changes from both teams.
Summer signing Kral had already spurned a decent opening as the Hammers started on the front foot, before Ryan Fredericks burst down the right flank, hit the byline and picked out the perfect cut-back to Manuel Lanzini, who swept home his finish. Fredericks’ good work came at a cost, however, as he appeared to slip down the turf slope behind the goal and had to be replaced shortly afterwards.
The shock seemed to wake United, whose response was positive and immediate; Jesse Lingard appealed for a penalty he was never going to get in the next attack, before Juan Mata struck the crossbar from a tight angle on the right. Jadon Sancho, starting from the left once more, cut in before seeing a low shot saved.
That attacking flurry didn’t last long, though, with the visitors well-drilled off the ball, working hard in both halves of the pitch and retaining a counter-attacking threat of their own.
United’s forward play was heavily weighted down the left, with Anthony Martial and Sancho both looking to cut in off that side and Mata gravitating there too, but with the Hammers packing out the box the home side had to resort to strikes from range at times, Diogo Dalot among those to send efforts off-target.
Nemanja Matic was fortunate to escape a yellow card at the very least after clearly kneeing Vladimir Coufal after the ball had gone as frustration began to show, before again escaping sanction for a late challenge on the ankle of Lanzini, leading to the Argentinian needing to be subbed.
Solskjaer also turned to his bench soon after, Mason Greenwood coming on for Mata - and the youngster almost netted with his first touch, lifting the crowd with his run and strike despite Areola’s outstretched leg denying him. That was, though, the clearest opening that remained for United; the final half-hour was spent trying to bypass the excellent Kral and, behind him, Issa Diop, as well as trying to chase back Jarrod Bowen on increasingly frequent counter-attacks.
Indeed, the closing minutes should have seen West Ham wrap up a more emphatic win: Andriy Yarmolenko chested the ball around Dean Henderson, before contriving to hit the post, before Noble failed to beat the keeper from around the penalty spot once more - a first-time strike on the run this time, but straight at the keeper.
This time, it didn’t matter; this time, West Ham were victors. Their improvement under David Moyes continues, while Solskjaer must search elsewhere for his first trophy as a United boss.
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