Wednesday 17 January 2018

Blind faith sees United rescue point against West Ham

West Ham United 1 Manchester United 1

Daley Blind celebrates with Marouane Fellaini after scoring a late equaliser for Manchester United in their Premier League clash with West Ham United at Upton Park. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Daley Blind celebrates with Marouane Fellaini after scoring a late equaliser for Manchester United in their Premier League clash with West Ham United at Upton Park. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Manchester United striker Radamel Falcao holds off a challenge from West Ham United's Carl Jenkinson during their Premier League clash at Upton Park. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Manchester United's Daley Blind tracks West Ham United's Alexandre Song during their Premier League clash at Upton Park. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Cheikhou Kouyate opens the scoring for West Ham United in their Premier League clash with Manchester United at Upton Park. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj battles for the ball with West Ham United winger Stewart Downing during their Premier League clash at Upton Park. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Henry Winter

Manchester United escaped with a point from Upton Park but they cannot escape a deepening inquest into their development under Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman is one of the most acclaimed managers of the modern era, but his latest team have yet to reflect his Midas touch.

The superior work that Van Gaal's compatriot, Ronald Koeman, is doing at the third-placed Southampton highlights Manchester United's quandary. They look so lacking in defensive organisation and an attacking plan.

Fielding Wayne Rooney in midfield is baffling to anyone who has followed the striker's career, like inviting Jamie Oliver into your kitchen and telling him to do the dishes.

Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie are not prospering in tandem; dropping one, and moving Rooney up in support, makes more sense. Van Gaal always knows best, apparently, but not here, not with this painful wasting of Rooney's abilities.

Similarly, playing long balls is not the Manchester United way. Launching Hail Mary passes to Marouane Fellaini must have been anathema for those travelling fans congregated in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand. "Long Ball Louis" is a mocking moniker they did not expect to be bestowed on their celebrated coach by opponents.

At least those proclaiming their allegiance to "Louis van Gaal's red-and-white army" were treated to an old favourite, that fighting spirit that brought so many late goals and glory under Sir Alex Ferguson. Deep into Fergie time, Daley Blind equalised.

Van Gaal claimed that his team could have prevailed such was their improved form after a hapless first half when they were second to the ball and second-rate in their creative thinking. The fact remains that but for David de Gea, West Ham would have been over the horizon. If De Gea is voted Manchester United's player of the year it would be little surprise, and a slight indictment of Van Gaal's first season in charge at Old Trafford.

West Ham applauded their players' endeavours but felt frustrated. They should have won. It reflects their development this season that they were so disappointed at dropping two points to such famous guests.

West Ham fans were treated to strong performances all around. Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell were again good at full-back, defending or pushing up, although Jenkinson's one mistake, a poor clearance, was seized on by Blind. Ably assisted by Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan, Alex Song was imperious in central midfield, deepening Rooney's woes.

After 14 minutes, Enner Valencia seized on Marcos Rojo's header out and drilled in a shot that De Gea kept out. From the ensuing corner, Tomkins flicked the ball to Valencia, whose volley was saved.

West Ham's bench then became angered when Van Persie waved his left arm back in rising for a high ball, catching Tomkins. The Dutchman's arm was straight, looking more designed for leverage than damage, and Mark Clattenburg contented himself with just a free-kick against Van Persie.

De Gea looked annoyed as Phil Jones and Rojo, were again at sixes and sevens. Cresswell lifted in a free-kick from the left, the ball carrying to the unmarked Tomkins at the far post. Once again, De Gea was to the rescue.

The goal West Ham deserved arrived three minutes into the second half, and it was a magnificent strike. Manchester United had looked vulnerable to balls delivered from wide all afternoon. Rooney and Jones hesitated as the ball fell to Kouyate, who juggled the ball twice and turned, volleying it past De Gea with a deflection off Blind.

United responded, Tomkins, throwing himself full length, put in a block to deny Van Persie. Van Gaal sent on Fellaini for Adnan Januzaj after 72 minutes with Di Maria going left. Five minutes later, they had a glorious chance when Van Persie ushered Falcao through but the Colombian, so bereft of confidence, shot wide.

Adrian then saved from Van Persie, kicking his shot clear. United's mood briefly darkened further. Shaw was booked for dissent and Rooney talked his way into Clattenburg's book. It could have got worse for Rooney's team but De Gea kept out shots from Mark Noble and then Kevin Nolan. Deep into added time, Blind was quickest to react to Jenkinson's clearance, sweeping the ball past Adrian. Shaw then fouled Downing, and departed for a second yellow, but at least the visitors left with a point. (©The Daily Telegraph, London).

Telegraph.co.uk

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