Monday 19 February 2018

Fans vent anger as United fail to find cutting edge in another blunt show

Manchester Utd 0-0West Ham Utd

Anthony Martial was as un-influential yesterday as Rooney has been
Anthony Martial was as un-influential yesterday as Rooney has been
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic (R) shakes hands with man of the match Winston Reid

Paul Wilson

Wayne Rooney had an alibi for this latest Manchester United disappointment. If the home side's play was slow and ineffective, lacking conviction in front of goal, it clearly could not be the injured captain's fault. This could have been the day when United overtook their neighbours in the top four, instead it was another let down.

The home wingers displayed an early confidence but soon lost it, the midfield passing was predictable and frequently inaccurate, consequently Anthony Martial was as un-influential as Rooney has been. United have now drawn their last three games and scored one goal in the process, so good luck to them on Tuesday night with their must-win Champions League game at Wolfsburg.

"We don't have any luck, but we need to be more composed too," Louis van Gaal said. "We dominated in the second half but you have to score. We need to get over this period because with the chances we are creating we could be first in the league. But you have to put them in. I am not so worried, but everybody knows we must score in Wolfsburg."

Unusually for Old Trafford these days the game got off to an eventful start.

Marouane Fellini sent a header narrowly over Adrian's bar from Paddy McNair's inviting cross in the opening minutes, then David de Gea prevented the home side taking the lead at the other end by coming out to save from Victor Moses. Moses should have done better with that early chance, particularly as he pulled up injured before the interval. He had only the goalkeeper to beat after Daley Blind had wrong-footed his own defence by passing straight to Mark Noble. West Ham could not have asked for a clearer opportunity to go in front.

Fellaini's ability in the air was being put to good use, and, when he knocked down a cross for Martial, the striker seemed certain to score, only to find Winston Reid putting his body in the way to block.

With West Ham hitting the same post twice in quick succession, once when Chris Smalling and Mauro Zarate challenged for the loose ball after De Gea spilled a cross, the next time when Reid was unlucky with a header from a corner, there was more goalmouth incident in the first half hour than this crowd has seen in whole games of late.

There was a certain amount of atmosphere too, thanks mostly to the West Ham fans keeping up a persistent din and celebrating the 15th anniversary of Roy Keane's prawn sandwich remarks by noting the reserve of the home support. "Is this the Emirates?" they chorused, getting in two digs for the price of one.

Reid was having a busy game, as well as getting on the end of an elbow from Bastian Schweinsteiger just before half-time that ought to have earned the German at least a booking.

The tempo had dropped by the break, however, and the second half was a plodding affair all too familiar to critics of Van Gaal's patient passing game. By the hour mark only the flair and occasional audacity of Zarate was keeping the West Ham fans awake. The forward should have scored when a touch from Andy Carroll played him behind the home back-line yet he managed to miss the target completely after timing his run to perfection to stay onside.

In the closing stages West Ham were defending most of the time and living a little dangerously, as their opponents applied pressure without managing to make it tell. Juan Mata capped an anonymous game by shooting wide, Schweinsteiger's last act before being substituted was to fire over the bar.

Ten minutes from the end United at least put a stylish attacking move together, Memphis Depay and Fellaini combining to allow Martial a shot, though the effort went wide, as did one from Jesse Lingard.

There was no need for spectators to chant "attack, attack, attack" (although a few did), because United were attacking. They just lacked the invention to find a way through. There were boos at the end, and a mass exodus before the final whistle. The West Ham contingent had been waiting for that. "Is there a fire drill?"


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