Opinion

West Ham battled hard to see off Manchester United in an enthralling encounter in front of a buoyant London Stadium crowd.

The Hammers came into the game full of confidence and clearly determined to add their recent turn in fortunes. After picking up four points against Everton and Chelsea, before hammering Macclesfield in the Carabao Cup, the pressured had eased on Manuel Pellegrini’s side and instead lied with the Red Devils and Jose Mourinho. The Irons took advantage of that – and did it in some style to claim victory.

The line-up

The team is starting to pick itself now. The only change from the side that grounded out an excellent point at home to Chelsea last week, was the return of Marko Arnautović. As everyone at the club is aware, if the Austrian forward is anywhere near full fitness, then his presence is an absolute must.

A few people have mentioned it, and I tend to agree with them, that the only change you would maybe make is to bring Aaron Cresswell back into the line-up. In fairness to Arthur Masuaku, he has been much improved defensively lately, but I just feel Cresswell is the better left-back of the two. Other than that, I have no qualms about the current selections.

Analysing West Ham defensively

The defence just keeps going from strength to strength, having conceded just two goals in the last three Premier League matches. Yes, United did have chances – but they are one of the biggest teams in world football – you have to expect that.

It has to be said that one man deserves an awful lot of praise, and that is Łukasz Fabiański. The ‘keeper has made a world of difference since his arrival, making very few mistakes as well as a number of fantastic stops. He has clearly built up a relationship with the defence in front of him and confidence in the backline is certainly growing.

Issa Diop and Fabían Balbuena were both solid once again. The pair are dominating on the floor, making a number of perfectly timed tackles but also interceptions. The way they kept Romelu Lukaku so quiet was very impressive. The Belgian is often impossible to stop when he faces you up, but the pair did fantastically well in limiting his impact on the game.

What can you say about the three central midfielders at the moment? That position is often referred to as ‘the Engine room’, and that is most definitely what it is right now. Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang, sitting in front of Declan Rice, are putting in some serious miles. The pair are matching up against some of the best midfielders on the planet and they are not giving them a moment’s peace on the ball – it’s a joy to watch.

Declan Rice gets a paragraph all to himself. That boy just keeps getting better and better every game he plays. In his position, patrolling in front of the defence, Rice allows the men in front of him the freedom to get forward, but can easily slot into the defence when necessary. Not just that though, he is also picking out the right pass every single time and, at times, is also beginning to control the tempo of games – a little bit like Michael Carrick.

Analysing West Ham offensively

The offensive output was a lot better last week, after being a bit rusty and wasteful in the final third against Chelsea. The return of Arnautović played a huge part in that, as he seemed to have the United centre-backs on the back foot every time he got himself on the ball.

It was interesting to see Pablo Zabaleta pushing forward a lot more, trying to exploit a Red Devils defence that is currently looking worse than it has for many years. As Andriy Yarmolenko looked to come inside often, that allowed the right-back freedom to get in behind unmarked and create some serious problems – just like he did for the Hammers’ brilliant opener. That flick from Felipe Anderson. Oh boy.

Anderson was superb in the first half, his composure on the ball and the way he linked up with Arnautović, was very promising to see. On the other wing, Yarmolenko didn’t pull up any trees, but he had a few nice touches and picked up some decent positions in the United’s area.

A special mention is required for captain Mark Noble. Whilst he has already been praised for his defensive impact, he definitely deserves a mention for his offensive display. Noble showed great composure in possession and made the Hammers tick, with the way he picked pockets and tried to keep the ball moving. And that pass for Arnautović was superb – it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Conclusions

West Ham were by far the better team in just about every avenue and most definitely deserved the three points. It was a much better offensive display from the Irons and yet another solid defensive performance. This team continues to grow and get better each and every time they step out onto the field together, in a formation which they seem to be a lot more comfortable playing in. There appears to be a camaraderie between the players now – they are working hard as a unit – and are reaping the rewards of that.

This result should give the Hammers great confidence heading into the match at Brighton on Friday night, where they will once again be hoping to pick up three points.