Two Paul Pogba penalties were enough for Manchester United to see off a spirited West Ham side at Old Trafford.
West Ham started the better of the two sides and they were unlucky not to take the lead in the eighth minute. Javier Hernandez headed down an Arthur Masuaku cross to the feet of Felipe Anderson and the Brazilian then finished the move off with a clinical finish. To the delight of most of Old Trafford, this was incorrectly ruled offside as Diogo Dalot was clearly playing him onside.
West Ham would be left ruing this decision and indeed the next; Robert Snodgrass was adjudged to have fouled Juan Mata in the West Ham box with United being awarded a penalty. Replays showed that there was in fact minimal contact and that Mata tripped himself over. United however took full advantage of the poor refereeing and Paul Pogba stepped up and sent Lukasz Fabianski the wrong way as he put the Red Devils into a contentious lead.
The game became an end-to-end affair until the half-time whistle and Anderson came the closest for the Hammers as he took the ball past his compatriot Fred and hit a shot that was well saved by David De Gea in the United goal.
West Ham’s luck started to change in the second half as they finally got their goal. Felipe Anderson got on to the end of a Manuel Lanzini cross and managed to place the ball past De Gea to score his ninth Premier League goal of the season.
The Hammers then pushed on to find the winner with substitute Michail Antonio coming close on two occasions. The Englishman first hit the crossbar from the edge of the box and also forced a good save from De Gea with a powerful headed effort.
It was Manchester United that found the winner though. Anthony Martial made a driving run through on goal but was brought down in the box by Ryan Fredericks – this time it was a certain penalty. The same taker, Pogba, stepped up and secured the same result. With Manchester United 2-1 up, they were able to see out the game and climb the table up to fifth before other fixtures this weekend, West Ham however stay eleventh, four points behind Watford in tenth.
Referees need VAR
It’s starting to sound like a broken record now. VAR’s arrival in the Premier League cannot come soon enough. West Ham, currently on a bad run of form, really needed some luck on Saturday but the officiating let them down massively and if VAR had been in action in the first half, the game could have realistically ended with the Hammers 1-0 up and Manchester United down to ten men.
West Ham were wrongly disallowed a goal that would have given them the lead through Felipe Anderson – with VAR in action, it would have corrected the lines-mans decision and spotted Dalot playing Anderson on-side.
VAR could have come in to play again as Paul Pogba went unpunished for a ‘kung fu kick’ on West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass. The two players went for the same ball, Snodgrass with his head and Pogba with his foot.
VAR also would have cancelled out United’s first penalty as Juan Mata went down with minimal contact from Snodgrass. Referee, Graham Scott, saw it to be enough to give a penalty though replays suggest Mata was somewhat fortunate to receive the penalty kick.
Felipe Anderson shows his worth
Felipe Anderson has come under scrutiny recently but on Saturday he silenced some of his critics. The Brazilian hadn’t scored since December in the Premier League and was unlucky not open the scoring at Old Trafford.
The winger didn’t let the disappointment of the wrong decision get to him however and continued to torment the United defenders. He was finally rewarded early into the second-half with a clever finish past David De Gea. This goal meant that he becomes the first West Ham player to score home and away against United since Jermaine Defoe in the 2001/02 season.
Anderson’s goal was his tenth of the season making this his best season since 2014/15 when he was at Lazio.
United stop the rot
Not too long ago Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the best thing since sliced bread. But going into Saturday’s he was on the edge of seeing Manchester United be on their worst run of form for 27 years if they had lost to West Ham. The victory should see them travel to Barcelona in good spirits and hopeful of getting a result against the Catalonian giants and progressing in the Champions League.
With a fortunate victory, it could spark the beginning of a positive run of form as United head into the seasons’ final stretch.
Robert Snodgrass: A Target for Fouls
In the 2016/17 season, Robert Snodgrass was statistically one of the Premier League’s most fouled player. In the present season, it seems like he is once again a key player for opposition teams to target.
Although the Scotsman is not statistically in the top 20 most fouled players, this could be because many decisions go against him, such as Pogba’s ‘kung-fu’ kick in Saturday’s game. Snodgrass has been fouled 11 times in his last five games; three of them occurring at Old Trafford alone. Going by these stats, it looks like Snodgrass will remain a certain target for opposition player as the season draws to a close.
Man of the Match – Declan Rice
The young Englishman was outshone due to Paul Pogba’s brace. However, Rice stopped the Manchester United midfield from operating and was certainly unlucky to be on the losing side.
Rice has been brilliant at doing the dirty jobs in the West Ham midfield, the nature of his position, holding midfield, is an unglamorous one but one of the most important. If the ‘Basmati Busquets’ keeps performing as he did on Saturday, it would be surprising if no admirers come looking in the summer.