Manchester United moved back into the Premier League’s top six with a mildly uncomfortable 1-0 home victory against West Ham on Sunday.

An own goal from Craig Dawson, from a Bruno Fernandes corner, was the difference between the sides, although United certainly had the better of the game in terms of quality and quantity of chances.

Centre-backs crucial for Manchester United

United’s structure, even with both McTominay and Fred in midfield, offers too little protection of the side’s defence. In this case, Maguire and Lindelof did fantastically, intercepting countless crosses, winning numerous aerial battles against Antonio and Soucek and tracking runs well.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Dean Henderson of Manchester United punches the ball away as he collides with team mate Harry Maguire and Jarrod Bowen of West Ham United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on March 14, 2021 in Manchester, England.
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

They don’t always offer the perfect base for United but in this case, it was their individual performances that impressed while the protection offered by those in front of them wasn’t enough.

Committed Rashford misses key chances

Rashford played the full game against West Ham, battling through a recent ankle and a long-term shoulder injury. That commitment to the side is no surprise but should be applauded. United and England need to be seriously careful with how they use and play Rashford over the next few months. He’s played a huge amount of football and not got the rest he needs.

A couple of missed chances shouldn’t overlook that but Rashford had to convert one of his two headed chances.

 

Mason Greenwood lively without scoring

Greenwood has had good games over the last month without managing to find his scoring form. On two occasions on Sunday evening he hit the post; one of those efforts being tipped onto there by an in-form Lukasz Fabianski. Greenwood proved one of United’s best attacking players, drifting wide and isolating West Ham defenders before getting past them. By doing that and dropping back to link play well, Greenwood helped United’s cause a lot.

West Ham United's Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (L) reaches the ball ahead of Manchester United's English striker Mason Greenwood (R) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on March 14, 2021.
(Photo by Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP)

The part of his game missing was the penalty area movement that United fans so enjoyed in Cavani’s spell in the side. Neither Martial nor Greenwood can replicate that.

United stuttering through second half of the season

United mismanaged the end to Thursday night’s draw against AC Milan. They didn’t make the same mistakes against West Ham but it was an unconvincing victory. United are doing okay despite a couple of hiccups but the January positivity has been overshadowed by the stuttering form of February and March.

Injuries have played a part and the fact United move back to second in the Premier League is something to celebrate. Fans would love to see a couple of comfortable victories, though.

Solskjaer ignores weak bench to see game out vs West Ham

Those injuries mean Solskjaer chose to ignore his subs bench. Amad and Shola Shoretire, the two youngsters, were the only attacking options. In a game where United wanted to hold onto possession to stay ahead, neither would have been a sensible choice. And so Solskjaer stuck, rather than twisting, and it paid off in the end.

It might not always work. United need options off the bench and injuries to Martial, Cavani, van de Beek and Pogba mean those are stringently limited.

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