21st September 2018. Friday. Manchester United vs Wolves was just one day away. There was a clear sense of optimism amongst the Manchester United fans. Two back to back defeats against Brighton and Spurs seemed like a lifetime ago. Three away wins on a trot, most notably against Young Boys in the Champions League, gave a feeling that Jose Mourinho had finally turned it around. But little did the Manchester United supporters know what was about to happen in the next one week.
One week is a long time in the footballing world. And for Manchester United, this past week has changed the whole complexion of their season. Firstly, two points were dropped against Wolves at home, and then a shock penalty shoot-out defeat to Derby County saw the Red Devils getting knocked out of the League Cup. This made the West Ham game a must-win encounter for the club.
But it was not meant to be United’s day. Right from the starting line up the fans sensed something was off. When Marouane Fellaini, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic start in the same team, the creativity is going to take a hit. But when the match started, McTominay took the position of a right-sided center half in a three at the back, along with Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling.
United started the match in a lack lustrous manner and within minutes, Felipe Anderson put West Ham ahead with a smart finish from close range. United did gain control of the possession and created a few half chances but couldn’t score. Just before the end of the half, United were unlucky to fall 2-0 down. Andriy Yarmelonko’s shot was deflected into his own net by Victor Lindelof and sunk the confidence of the whole team.
But Mourinho decided against any half-time substitutions and it was again the slow pace of the game that held United back. Ashley Young did put a great cross in the box that was headed down and low by Fellaini but brilliantly saved by Fabianski.
Marcus Rashford, back from his suspension, came on and made an immediate impact with an outstanding finish from a Luke Shaw corner. But even before United could think of a comeback, Marko Arnautovic restored West Ham’s two-goal lead with a well-taken goal. The goal shouldn’t have stood as Pablo Zabaleta had clearly fouled Marcus Rashford in the buildup but Michael Oliver failed to notice that.
Now, the atmosphere at Old Trafford for the next game against Valencia isn’t going to be pleasant. Mourinho needs to get his team selection right and then motivate his troops to go and fight for themselves, for the fans and most importantly for the badge. Even the players need to step up from all the negative energy around the club and show to the fans why they deserve to play for this club.