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Hammers add to Man United’s week of discord

WING AND A PRAYER: First goal scorer Felipe Anderson celebrates his strike

A WEEK of discord continued for Manchester United as West Ham offered further indication of their recent improvement.

Seldom have West Ham been as commanding against supposedly superior opponents, and their 3-1 victory, courtesy of an ingenious Felipe Anderson flick, a deflected Andriy Yarmolenko strike and a cool finish from Marko Arnautovic, offered a fair reflection of proceedings.

The hosts were confident, organised and determined to pick at Manchester United’s fresh scabs. The wounds West Ham themselves suffered in their four winless matches at the start of the campaign have long since healed and this performance was the best of Manuel Pellegrini’s tenure so far.

Luck was on their side but this was not the sort of smash and grab that West Ham have often excelled in against well-heeled opponents. The east Londoners were solid in defence, exerted greater control in midfield, and found their forward trio in irresistible mood.

Much of the above was showcased six minutes in as Pablo Zabaleta and the outstanding Mark Noble combined to win the ball back in midfield. The West Ham captain then released Zabaleta down the right and his first time cross was steered home by Anderson.

That tells only half the story given how the Brazilian, who perhaps arrived in the danger zone moments too soon, skipped and used his trailing leg to flick the ball beyond David De Gea. Replays indicated that Zabaleta was offside in the build-up but it was near impossible to spot in real time and West Ham were good value for their lead.

The visitors, by contrast, laboured ineffectively through much of this match. Such was their lack of quality, their inability to affect the game during the first half, it gave lie to those who thought Manchester United would welcome a match on the road given their travails at home. They did not register a first half shot on target.

That point was rammed home as a stranded De Gea watched helplessly in the 43rd minute as Yarmolenko’s shot took a wicked deflection off Victor Lindelof.

One of the loudest cheers of the day was of the sarcastic kind, as the locals welcomed the second half substitution of Paul Pogba for Fred.

Moments later, in the 71st minute, another substitute, Marcus Rashford, reduced the arrears with an improvised flying backheel that offered a suitable riposte to Anderson’s stunning strike.

There had been greater urgency to the visitors’ second half play, particularly after Rashford’s arrival precipitated a move from three at the back to a 4-3-3 formation.

Yet West Ham, who had been a constant threat on the counter, took just three minutes to restore their two-goal lead.

Noble, again exerting his considerable influence, slid an angled ball into the path of Arnautovic, who had space and time to pick his side and made no mistake.

Manchester United were all but finished and the scrutiny is bound to grow as talk of an Old Trafford crisis abounds.

For their part, West Ham rose to twelfth with victory and have reason to look upwards.

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