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Premier League: West Ham United 1 Manchester United 3
After 279 days of stony silence, the sound finally returned to Stratford, where 2,000 Hammers fans were sadly left wondering just how West Ham United had managed to turn three points into none at London Stadium.
Facing his former club, David Moyes had looked in cruise-control as Tomáš Souček slid the dominant Hammers ahead on 37 minutes with his third goal of the campaign only for wasteful finishing to then cost his side dearly after the break.
Both Sebastién Haller and Vladimír Coufal had squandered gilt-edged chances to double the lead either side of the interval and West Ham paid the price as Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and substitute Marcus Rashford then breached Claret & Blue defences three times inside 13 miserable second-half minutes.
A hat-trick of November victories meant that the high-flying Hammers had come into this clash in fifth-spot – four places and one point ahead of the visitors - and following Monday night’s somewhat fortuitous 2-1 win over Aston Villa, Moyes made just one change as Haller returned in place of Michail Antonio, who had aggravated his hamstring, once again upon his return to first-team action.
And with those 2,000 lucky golden ticket holders soon making their presence felt, Jarrod Bowen quickly drilled a low, angled, point-blank shot into Dean Henderson’s ribcage before then curling a 20-yarder wide of the ‘keeper’s right-hand post.
Certainly, those supporters inspired lots of early intensity as Pablo Fornals harried and hustled Aaron Wan Bissaka into an early error before Bowen raced onto Coufal’s well-weighted pass but after slotting past Henderson, a raised offside flag soon turned the cheers into jeers.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side, who lost to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night, had not lost a domestic match away from Old Trafford since mid-January and, indeed, they arrived in the capital boasting a remarkable run of eight straight Premier League wins on the road.
Following that midweek Champions League defeat at Old Trafford, the Norwegian made a quartet of changes as Henderson, Pogba, Greenwood and Donny van de Beek, came in for David De Gea and Fred plus substitutes Bruno Fernandes and Rashford.
On 18 minutes, Antony Martial forced the first corner of a chilly East End evening with a low 20-yarder that deflected wide off Fabián Balbuena and then Angelo Ogbonna also hooked one behind after Alex Telles cross into the goalmouth but neither flag-kick posed any real danger to the well-drilled Hammers defence.
With the half-hour approaching, West Ham looked more than comfortable against the visitors, who with their black and white shirts resembled threatened zebras in a midfield jungle, where they were constantly hunted down by the men in Claret & Blue shirts
The lively Bowen again broke down the right before sending over an enticing cross to the far post, where Fornals headed into the side-netting and the No.20 then took matters into his own hands by sending another 20-yarder high over.
Moments later, Bowen was back in the thick of things again, picking out Haller on the edge of the six-yard box and, when the Ivory Coast striker neatly squared to Fornals, the Spaniard could only toe-poke his shot onto the base of Henderson’s right-hand post.
Although Pogba’s low 20-yarder called for Łukasz Fabiański’s first save of the night, a West Ham goal certainly did not look far away and, sure enough, when Bowen forced another corner on 38 minutes, Moyes boys deservedly broke the deadlock.
Aaron Cresswell swung the flag-kick to the front edge of the six-yard box, where Declan Rice rose highest to glance the ball goal-wards and, right on cue, the sliding Souček carried the ball over the line.
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And with those fans celebrating the sight of their first goal since the final day of February, they should have been enjoying a second shortly afterwards when Haller raced clear from halfway.
But after coolly rounding Henderson and looking to pick his spot between the back-pedalling Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelóf, West Ham’s top-scorer inexplicably lost his footing on the green, green grass of the Hammers home and a gilt-edged chance slipped away.
That was a huge let-off for United who instead of being two-goals down, might even have levelled as the interval neared but Fabiański brilliantly clawed Martial’s rising effort out from under his right-hand angle to keep West Ham’s lead intact.
Solskjær made a double-switch for the restart as Fernandes and Rashford emerged in place of de Beek and Edinson Cavani but despite the arrival of those two influential big guns the Hammers were refusing to be intimidated.
Indeed, the over-lapping Coufal should have followed his Czech mate Souček onto the scoresheet within five minutes of the restart, when he was cleverly released by Haller but with the whites of Henderson’s eyes firmly in his sights he was caught in two minds and dragged his angled shot across goal, where Bowen could only slide behind at the far post.
At the other end, Harry Maguire’s low 25-yarder was reassuringly gathered by Fabiański before Scott McTominay kissed the side-netting with another effort from similar range, ahead of Martial limping away to be replaced by Juan Mata.
Still West Ham pressed and when Bowen’s right-wing run had Henderson scampering from his goal on 65 minutes, there was little sign of the calamity that was to follow.
For the United ‘keeper curled the ball down the touchline, where Fernandes collected and squared to Pogba, who curled a 20-yarder beyond the flying Fabiański and the Pole’s left-hand post.
It had certainly been a slick, albeit Route One, move but with Moyes furiously appealing that Henderson’s kick had strayed out of play a VAR check was carried out before the Frenchman’s equaliser was allowed to stand.
If that shock smash n’grab goal had not been bad enough for the Hammers boss, then United rubbed more salt into the wound of their former manager two minutes later, when Telles throw-in was back-heeled into the taker’s path by Fernandes and when the young Brazilian crossed towards the penalty spot, Greenwood cleverly spun Ogbonna before drilling a low, angled effort into the net.
Now somehow finding themselves behind, the Hammers began to unravel as Rashford then hit the post while Greenwood went close, too, before Moyes made a double-switch in the shape of Manuel Lanzini and Said Benrahma as Fornals and the workaholic Bowen retired.
The two new boys were still find in their feet though, when another slick counter-attack put the game beyond West Ham’s reach with a dozen minutes remaining.
This time Pogba and Fernandes combined on halfway before Mata sent Rashford racing clear and he nonchalantly clipped the ball over the helplessly exposed Fabianski to claim United’s third goal of the evening with his 10th strike of the season.
In a show of late resistance, Benrahma deposited a long-ranger onto the roof of Henderson’s net, while the United keeper also had to claw away Cresswell’s curling 25-yard free-kick, ahead of fielding a rasping Rice rocket but it was all too late for West Ham, who paid a heavy price for missing those earlier chances to put the game to bed themselves.
West Ham United: Fabiański, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Coufal (Johnson 84), Masuaku, Rice, Souček, Fornals (Benrahma 75), Bowen (Lanzini 75), Haller. Unused subs: Randolph, Snodgrass, Noble, Diop.
Manchester United: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Telles, Lindelóf, Maguire, McTominay, Pogba, Martial (Mata 61), De Beek (Fernandes h/t), Greenwood, Cavani (Rashford h/t). Unused subs: Grant, Matic, Williams, Tuanzebe.
Referee: Andre Marriner
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