Manchester United 1-0 West Ham: 5 talking points

MUSC Red Devils NCR
Talking points as Manchester United overcome West Ham at Old Trafford
Talking points as Manchester United overcome West Ham at Old Trafford / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

In what was a frantic and absolutely frenetic encounter, Manchester United beat West Ham United courtesy a late, late Marcus Rashford strike right on the cusp of the full time whistle, breaking West ham hearts in what was a high stakes clash for both sides.

The game was hard fought from the beginning, with both teams having created decent openings without any end product.

It felt like one of those games which would end in a goalless draw that had everything except a goal, until Marcus Rashford ran in unmarked on the far post to smash in an Edinson Cavani cutback in an empty net to hand Manchester United a precious three points.

Here are our 5 takeaways from the game:

1. Selfish Greenwood

Jarrod Bowen, Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood's decision making was questionable / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

Make no mistake, Mason Greenwood is an outrageously talented and gifted footballer.

With a wand of a left foot and an equally lethal right foot, coupled with his insane finishing skills, he is a delight to watch every time he takes on to the field.

But this season we have seen a change in the way Greenwood approaches his game, and it's not exactly a good change.

In today's game, Greenwood was culpable of being too selfish at times, and not for the first time this season.

In the early exchanges of the game, Greenwood had a chance to release Bruno Fernandes, who was unmarked at the edge of the 18 yard box, but decided to take the shot on himself, resulting in his effort being blocked.

In another instance, after a blocked effort by Cristiano Ronaldo reached Greenwood, he once again went for a shot on goal, this time overlooking Scott McTominay who was in a much better position.

Now normally you can put that down to inexperience or the exuberance of youth, but there is a pattern emerging in Greenwood's play which is evidence of the fact that he is trying to do too much himself.

There is no doubt that he will go on to become a brilliant footballer in his own right, but he will have to learn to pick and choose his opportunities based on the situations in the game.

2. The resurgence of full-backs.

Alex Telles, Diogo Dalot
Telles and Dalot ran the show for United / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Football is a very strange game indeed.

There was a time when both Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles were deemed as surplus to requirements and were supposedly on their way out of Old Trafford.

But as luck would have it, an injury to Luke Shaw and a bout of illness to Aaron Wan-Bissaka opened up a lifeline to both these fullbacks, and boy they have taken this opportunity with both hands.

Today, both the full-backs were at their best in a game which could have easily proved to be a banana skin in terms of the quality of opposition.

While Alex Telles was a constant bundle of energy on the left, constantly bombarding threatening crosses and doing his defensive duties to the core, as his 5 tackles and 6/8 ground duels won would suggest, his fellow full-back on the right had an absolutely marvellous game in both defense as well as attack.

With a game leading 5 tackles won, an 86% pass accuracy, and in game of few clear-cut opportunities, he created 2 chances.

Diogo Dalot is having a resurgence which can only bode well for the overall fortunes of the team.

3. United's midfield stepped up

Tomas Soucek, Scott McTominay
McTominay was mercurial on the night / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

The midfield has always been considered the Achilles' heel of this Man Utd side.

More often than not, it is our midfield that has let us down in crunch games, becoming a major difference in the quest for posing a title challenge or winning trophies.

The pivot of "McFred" has always come under much scrutiny for their multiple issues, which often means that the games pass them by.

Not today though.

In a midfield battle which pitted them against one of the in-form central midfielders In Declan Rice and and unbreakable force in Tomas Soucek, Fred and McTominay held their own against them.

Fred was the distributor in this game, effectively recycling the ball to the much more creative players, with a 90% pass accuracy, and also coming close to opening the scoring with a brilliantly struck snapshot that was very well saved by Hammers keeper Alphonse Areola.

On the other hand, McTominay was his usual combative self, shielding the ball skillfully and driving forward with purpose everytime he had the ball. Games like these prove why they are always trusted in key games, because they always bring their A-game in such fixtures. 

4. Proactive substitutions

Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial
Martial created a positive impact in the game / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Make no mistake, Manchester United were very good today. Right from the get go, they did everything right.

They pressed in numbers, with the right intensity, won most of the second balls and were all over West ham at the slightest error they made.

But as the game wore on, the players became leggy and mistakes started to creep in.

Underhit passes, no proper quality on the final ball, and the less said about set pieces the better. So this time, instead of playing out for a draw, Ralf Rangnick went for the kill and sent out all his attacking options from the bench.

Out went Elanga, Greenwood and Fred and in came Marcus Rashford, Edison Cavani and Anthony Martial, and immediately the game turned on it's head.

While Edinson Cavani pressed and harassed the Hammers' defense constantly, Martial absolutely bulldozed his way into the West Ham box every time he had the ball with an intensity and purpose which was invisible the entire season, whenever he played.

It was only fitting that the winning goal was a combination of all the three subs, Martial playing Cavani through, who then fizzed an absolutely delicious ball in front of goal for Rashford to tuck it in. This shows that our subs can make a difference, if used properly.

5. Can United capitalise on this momentum?

Manchester United, Ralf Rangnick
Rangnick could have a firm idea about his team now / OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

The win against West Ham was huge. It's a win which sees the Red Devils jump up all the way to 4th place, leapfrogging West ham and just six points behind Chelsea with a game in hand.

The next four fixtures against Burnley, Southampton, Leeds and Watford are all winnable fixtures, plus the momentum generated by two straight wins can prove in an additional motivation to go out there and start winning these games.

In a season where each and every point has so much value, winning these games will go a long way in setting the tone for the Red Devils to push for a strong finish this season and also help in giving the team that jolt in the arm, making them realise there could be glory at the end, after all.

Written by: Delwyn Serrao for the MUSC Red Devils NCR

Instagram: delwyn_reddevil