Manchester United

Ralf Rangnick's changes decide another game for Manchester United

Grey Whitebloom
Ralf Rangnick watches on as his Manchester United side snuck past West Ham on Saturday
Ralf Rangnick watches on as his Manchester United side snuck past West Ham on Saturday / OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

"Can Manchester United score? They always score."

Ralf Rangnick has repeatedly echoed Clive Tyldesley's immortal commentary during the 1999 Champions League final with the assertion: "I'm convinced that we will win games because with this group of players we are always capable of creating chances and scoring goals," becoming the latest Manchester United manager to lean on nostalgia.

West Ham, just like Bayern Munich two decades ago, found this to be very much the case as Marcus Rashford tapped in a 93rd-minute winner on Saturday that propelled his side into the Premier League's top four, at the expense of their opponents no less.

Rashford entered the fray after an hour of sterile and thrill-free football as West Ham seemed content to blunt their hosts without straining for a goal themselves.

However, intent on taking advantage of the chance to leapfrog the Hammers, Rangnick threw the proverbial kitchen sink at a game that desperately needed unbalancing. With eight minutes left to play, the German coach tossed on Edinson Cavani and the controversial figure of Anthony Martial, joining a frontline already boasting Cristiano Ronaldo and Rashford himself.

This was at the other end of the adventurous scale to the alteration which Rangnick opted for in United's previous outing. The introduction of Harry Maguire for Ronaldo may have sparked a strop from the latter, but the addition of another centre back helped solidify a 2-0 lead against Brentford - which eventually ended in a 3-1 win - just days after United let a similar advantage slip.

Following a commanding opening 70 minutes - and in particular the first half - against Aston Villa, Rangnick mulled over the option of altering his lineup to preserve their lead: "I mean, obviously after we scored the second goal I was thinking of a back three," he explained post-game.

"But my worry was that if we did that we would be pinned back too much, in the end it still happened. If I could do it again I would probably change to a different formation, to a back three."

There was no suggestion of any such prevention on Saturday as United cranked up the (admittedly faint) pressure.

Throughout the contest United fell into the trap of attempting, and repeatedly failing, to pick out the defence splitting, direct pass needed to break open a team as reluctant to concede as West Ham. A side that may have been playing with added caution a week after being pulled apart at the seams by Leeds United's transitionary style.

Yet, following 92 frustrating minutes, Alex Telles' quick pass forward finally found its mark - via a poor half-header from Ryan Frederick's (West Ham's only substitute). Ronaldo had both Cavani and Martial to his left as the pair rapidly outnumbered a frantically back-pedalling Craig Dawson.

Martial shook off his public spats with the club to just about time the release of his pass to Cavani to perfection, as he rolled the ball across the area for Rashford to snaffle up a fourth goal off the bench this season, with United's first shot in the six yard box all game.

Most of a manager's work towards a match goes unseen on the training ground, but Rangnick understandably enjoyed the sight of his three alterations dovetailing for the winner: "I am very pleased the three subs prepared the goal and scored the goal. All were involved. That makes it even more important."