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Manchester United get job done in bore draw

CENTRE OF ATTENTION: United's Paul Pogba is surrounded by West Ham players

MANCHESTER UNITED needed a point to confirm their runners-up finish in the Premier League and it came courtesy of the type of performance that has defined their season in many eyes.

West Ham had secured their Premier League status last weekend with a 2-0 defeat of a listless Leicester while their opponents were all but assured second spot. Consequently, this was a match void of real tension, with numerous shots but few genuine goal scoring chances.

The end of term feel was palpable, from the bright sky that persisted well into the second half to the half time announcement for season ticket renewals.

At times, both sets of supporters seemed more concerned with their verbal sparring and, when that waned, Mark Noble squared up to Paul Pogba late on as both earned yellow cards.

Coincidentally, it was also two years to the day since the red team from Manchester were the final visitors to the Boleyn Ground. The travelling fans took considerable glee in telling the home contingent that their club’s status has not palpably improved since then.

That matter is one for West Ham to address this summer. It is, however, yet to be seen if it will be a concern for David Moyes, whose contract expires at the end of this campaign.

For now, the Scot named an unchanged team to face his former side. His counterpart, Jose Mourinho, made eight changes from the team that frustratingly went down 1-0 at Brighton last Friday evening. The Portuguese has concerns of his own and alarmed sections of the Old Trafford support this week with his admission that Pep Guardiola’s champions will remain ascendant next season.

Out on the pitch, West Ham raised the decibel levels on occasion in spite of the empty seats that dotted the London Stadium, but their chances felt ad-hoc and snatched at. Marko Arnautovic buzzed menacingly but, ultimately, to little effect.

David De Gea was able to watch one Aaron Cresswell effort sail wide from distance. Here the Spain international achieved his 18th clean sheet of the Premier League season.

The better chances fell to the visitors. During Manchester United’s best first half spell, Adrian called upon to repel both Alexis Sanchez and Luke Shaw in quick succession, on the latter occasion turning Shaw’s shot onto the post.

Jesse Lingard forced a save from West Ham’s Spanish custodian and chanced his arm on several other occasions without reward before he was withdrawn in the second half.

That was about as good as it got, with Sanchez energetic but loose in possession and Pogba just as inclined to shuttle the ball sideways as push forward.

One header from the Frenchman was a poor carbon copy of his imperious second effort in last month’s 3-2 defeat of Manchester City at the Etihad.

It was matched by a wasteful header from Chris Smalling, while another Pogba effort, launched goalward from near the halfway line, drew little more than mirth from the stands.

Some might say this was a representative sample of Manchester United’s season and there will be cause for concern if this drabness extends into the new season and City steam ahead once again.

By the end of this contest, however, neither side had much to complain about. And little of the action will live long in the memory.

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