It says something for Manchester United under Louis van Gaal that this could be described as their most entertaining goalless draw of the season. There are now six to choose from.
They aimed 20 shots at Adrian’s goal while West Ham United struck the frame of David De Gea’s goal twice. The West Ham manager, Slaven Bilic, spent much of the second half on his haunches barking instructions as if this were England versus Croatia at Wembley and the final whistle was met by a vast roar from those who had travelled from London.
Significantly, there were boos from the home fans. Entertaining it may have been but it was still goalless and it was still a squandered opportunity.
At the end of a familiar press conference, in which he argued that this was the way his sides had played at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AZ Alkmaar, Van Gaal was asked if this team could do with a world-class striker, a Luis Suarez or a Sergio Aguero. After much humming and harring, the United manager confessed that it probably could.
Without Wayne Rooney, once in the Suarez and Aguero class, United played with rather more urge and energy. One fabulous move involving Memphis Depay and Marouane Fellaini finished with Adrian making a point-blank save from the Belgian. Winston Reid, who struck the post with a header, also made a fantastic block to deny a goal.
However, only one of United’s 20 shots – the close-range drive from Fellaini - required a save.
There was less to admire from a depleted defence that suffered further casualties, with Paddy McNair’s withdrawal at half-time. United have conceded a single league goal at Old Trafford this season but West Ham might have scored three before the interval and one after the restart, when Andy Carroll headed the ball down for Mauro Zarate, who shot wide from six yards.
Bilic said: “I know it is not common for West Ham to come here and get anything, but this was a game that deserved goals. It could have been 3-2 to either side but I know what another goalless draw means at Manchester United and I bet you can’t wait to speak to Louis.”
His analysis of a 0-0 draw, however, is now rather familiar.
Manchester United: (4-2-3-1) De Gea; McNair (Varela, h-t), Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Schneiderlin (Carrick, 44), Schweinsteiger (Depay, 73); Mata, Fellaini, Lingard; Martial.
West Ham United: (4-1-4-1) Adrian; Tomkins, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Song (Obiang, 77); Zarate (Jenkinson, 87), Noble, Kouyaté, Moses (Antonio, 36); Carroll.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Reid (West Ham)
Match rating: 6/10
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