|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Greenwood grabs point for Manchester United after Pogba's penalty blunder
Jamie Jackson at Old Trafford
Date Published Wed 22 Jul 2020 20.01 BST
Mason Greenwood’s 17th goal of the season places him alongside George Best, Wayne Rooney and Brian Kidd as Manchester United’s most prolific teenagers in a single campaign.
More important his second-half equaliser means Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side moved a point ahead of Leicester and need only draw at the King Power on Sunday to seal a top-four place and Champions League qualification: a demand the manager would have accepted during the dark days of winter.
The issue for Solskjær is how tired United look and how he must somehow rouse them for one last salvo to ensure the Foxes do not end their league season in deep disappointment.
“We’ve given ourselves a fantastic opportunity and a great starting point for Sunday,” he said. “We know we’re going to play against a very good team – they are very dangerous – we’ll be ready physically and mentally.”
Solskjær retained the error-prone David de Gea, while Timothy Fosu-Mensah came in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back. West Ham’s goal difference made them all but safe and David Moyes sent out an unchanged XI.
United’s intent was shown when Bruno Fernandes slid Anthony Martial in along the right. The centre-forward dipped a shoulder and forced a sharp save from Lukasz Fabianski. Greenwood did precisely the same moments later and United’s tempo was already higher than Sunday’s soporific pace when they were being knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea.
Fosu-Mensah, Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Martial and Marcus Rashford were next to probe. Yet United’s rearguard had a scare when Aaron Cresswell swung a free-kick over from the left and the ball bounced straight across De Gea’s goal.
United’s forte is attack: a dipping Rashford pass that found Fernandes in the clear was illustrative though the latter’s touch let him down. After a too-high Martial shot, Michail Antonio forced a corner that Fernandes inadvertently flicked on and Harry Maguire had to clear.
West Ham were dangerous but only when allowed to be. A Rashford dash down the left channel turned a clutch of visiting defenders the wrong way and showed that when United hit higher gear they were a class above.
Next came a patient attack that went from wing-to-wing that ended with Fernandes pulling the trigger from long range – a sign of how robust West Ham were proving.
Then, Brandon Williams got the wrong side of Jarrod Bowen, Matic intervened and West Ham had a corner. This was taken short to the excellent Bowen and Angelo Ogbonna had a free header but he failed to work De Gea.
The latest in a catalogue of first-half shots from United was fired at Fabianski by Rashford and the goalkeeper had to beat this one away. What United lacked was incision – when Williams did get in behind West Ham and his cross found Fosu-Mensah, he volleyed weakly.
Disaster struck for United from a free-kick. Declan Rice struck his shot at the wall, Pogba raised his arms to protect his face, the ball hit a hand and VAR awarded a penalty. Michail Antonio made no mistake from the spot.
While Pogba reportedly apologised to his teammates, Solskjær said: “Paul’s held his hand up – he knows he should have taken it in the mush.”
At the interval a sharp word – or three – was required from Solskjær, who replaced Fosu-Mensah with Wan-Bissaka. Now, finally, United clicked: Pogba fed Greenwood who fed Martial, who returned the ball. A second one-two between the pair ended with Greenwood in, and the 18-year-old smashed home for his 10th league goal.
Solskjær said of the scorer: “He’s bailed us out a few times, he’s done it again and he’s been top class.”
United had wrested momentum. Suddenly Williams was surging into the area and Bowen pushed him over but VAR was not interested. De Gea had to be: a Bowen snap-shot that hit Williams had the keeper making a fine fingertip save in what was another West Ham warning. “David showed why we keep him in that goal with that great save,” said Solskjær.
This had become about United maintaining control and ensuring their unbeaten league run stretched to 13 games. The best method was to operate in the opposition half, yet West Ham had their moments. A Mark Noble free-kick that Rashford jumped out of way of summed United’s jitters up but they hung on.
Moyes said of his side: “They deserved a point,” and it confirmed survival. For United it is all about Leicester on Sunday.
Sky Player ratings
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Fosu-Mensah (6), Williams (7), Maguire (7), Lindelof (7), Matic (7), Pogba (6), Fernandes (6), Greenwood (7), Rashford (6), Martial (6).
Subs used: Wan-Bissaka (6), Ighalo (n/a).
West Ham: Fabianski (7), Cresswell (7), Johnson (8), Diop (7), Ogbonna (7), Noble (7), Rice (7), Soucek (7), Fornals (7), Bowen (7), Antonio (7).
Subs used: Masuaku (5), Haller (5), Yarmolenko (n/a).
Man of the match: Ben Johnson.