Thursday 15 November 2018

Pogba-Noble spat lights up dull stalemate

West Ham United 0 Manchester United 0

West Ham United's Mark Noble is challenged by Manchester United's Paul Pogba. Photo: Reuters
West Ham United's Mark Noble is challenged by Manchester United's Paul Pogba. Photo: Reuters

Sam Wallace

It was so nearly one of those nights when nothing happens, and no-one seems to care, when suddenly in the closing stages Paul Pogba and Mark Noble were up in one another's grills and the West Ham captain looked close to losing it with a rage that had been notably absent until then.

What a strange end to a night when two teams defended for no discernible reason and the game ebbed into moves that went nowhere before there was the kind of collision that looked much more dramatic than anything that happened before then.

Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez (left) and West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate in action. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez (left) and West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate in action. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Noble and Pogba embraced one another at the final whistle but they had gone toe-to-toe a few minutes earlier just when it looked like the game was going to sleepwalk to its end.

The away team managed 16 shots and six on target but none of those really tested Adrian after half-time and both seemed satisfied with the point - one which means that Manchester United are certain of second place.

Jose Mourinho will have to hope come Wembley on May 19 that his players are truly a team for the big occasion because this night proved that they are not a team for the small occasion, and they come no smaller than this one.

There were eight changes in the Manchester United team from the side that lost to Brighton last Friday and the performances were poor from many of the bigger names.

Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez (left) and West Ham United's Mark Noble battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez (left) and West Ham United's Mark Noble battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Pogba in particular had been frustrating before in those closing stages he fouled Cheikhou Kouyate, Noble took some revenge on Pogba, who set off in pursuit.

It was a cruel rather than a dangerous foul on Noble that Pogba then committed but it lit the touchpaper.

Noble hurled himself up against the much taller Frenchman and took hold of Pogba's face.

Andy Carroll, on as a substitute, threw himself into the fray and seemed to have a swing at an opponent, possibly Luke Shaw.

Manchester United's Paul Pogba. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Manchester United's Paul Pogba. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Referee Jonathan Moss might have dealt some red cards but settled for two bookings. It was a lively end to a tired night.

It was not helped by the indifference with which the crowd regarded this final match of the season at the unloved stadium, where another mediocre Premier League campaign ends not so much with a whimper as a sigh.

The away supporters sang that it was the "worst ground we've ever seen" and they got little dissent from the home fans, some of whom seemed even to be applauding them.

Painful

The final-week sweep of all those games that should have happened at other times is often a painful exercise in 'who cares?', but this one seemed particularly poignant falling on the second anniversary of the last game at Upton Park.

West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic shoots at goal. Photo: Reuters
West Ham United's Marko Arnautovic shoots at goal. Photo: Reuters

It was the same two teams that contested that epic goodbye that started with Jesse Lingard Snapchatting the bottle attack on the away team bus and ended with a rattling good comeback and a 3-2 West Ham win that no one was expecting.

While it was a far from perfect occasion, and the business with the bus was regrettable, what a night all the same.

Two years on and it is not just that the London Stadium does not have those naming rights that were supposed to take West Ham to the next level. They do not even have half the team they did two years ago when Slaven Bilic's side bagged a seventh-place finish. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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