Manchester United recorded a crucial 1-0 victory over their top-four rivals West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday. Ralf Rangnick’s side turned in a performance much improved on the midweek victory over Brentford, though it took until the dying seconds of second half stoppage time before Marcus Rashford bundled in the winner.
United were on top from the first whistle, seeing plenty of possession and keeping their opponents pegged back in their own half. However, Rangnick’s men lacked a coherent pattern of play in the final third, and attacks often broke down with red shirts tripping over themselves — not helped by a lacklustre performance from Cristiano Ronaldo.
United went close to opening the scoring inside a quarter-hour, when Bruno Fernandes intercepted a sloppy Hammers pass midway inside their own half. He threaded through to Mason Greenwood, momentarily clean through, though the young striker hesitated and allowed West Ham’s defence to swoop in and recover possession. Eight minutes later Fernandes fizzed a great cross in from the left, though Ronaldo couldn’t make contact with his diving header, and the ball flashed behind for a goal kick. By half time, neither side had mustered a shot on target.
The hosts remained on top early in the second half, and Fred drew the the first save from West Ham keeper Alphonse Areola five minutes after the restart. The visitors fired back a couple of minutes later, with star man Jarrod Bowen rippling the side-netting after a corner broke to him on the edge of the penalty area.
With few chances forthcoming, Rangnick introduced Marcus Rashford in a bid to exploit West Ham’s tiring defence. Still United offered little in attack, and with just over five minutes left, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial were thrown into the mix. The Reds saw more of the ball, but still couldn’t find the final pass. West Ham might have nicked it late, but Tomáš Souček flicked a corner agonisingly wide of the far post.
In the final minute of stoppage time, United finally found the breakthrough. West Ham right-back Ryan Fredericks was caught out of position on the counter-attack, and Martial found the overlapping Cavani on the left side of the penalty area. His low cross towards the back post found the onrushing Rashford, who stabbed home from point-blank range, winning the game with almost the very last kick.