Manchester United U23s unbeaten run ended with a 2-0 away defeat to West Ham in Premier League 2. The Reds dominated much of the fixture but were not clinical enough.

Manchester United team vs West Ham: Woolston; Laird (57′ Hugill), Fish, Mengi (c), Fernandez; Galbraith (58′ Helm), Hannibal, Puigmal; Pellistri (82′ Bejger), Elanga, Shoretire

Ethan Laird makes long-awaited return from hamstring injury

Manchester United were almost unchanged from their recent 4-2 win against Tottenham. Ethan Laird returned from a two-month absence with a hamstring injury to replace Lukasz Bejger in the starting line-up.

“He’s had a while out with a hamstring injury. He’s been training for two weeks and been doing a lot of work in the gym to strengthen that hamstring. Hopefully a good 45 minutes for him.”

Man Utd U23s manager Neil Wood on Ethan Laird’s return

Laird impressed in the first half, starting sharply and creating two chances after taking on his man on the right wing.

Manchester United West Ham U23s Premier League 2 U23 ROCHDALE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29:    Anthony Elanga of Manchester United U21 runs with the ball during the EFL Trophy match between Rochdale and Manchester United U21 at Crown Oil Arena on September 29, 2020 in Rochdale, England.
(Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Elanga threatens early on for United U23s

United’s first chance came through Anthony Elanga, the Swedish winger who terrorised his opponent all night. Elanga cut inside from the left and curled a right-footed shot that forced a good save from Nathan Trott. He was deemed to be offside. Minutes later, the same situation arose. This time he was on, but Elanga’s shot was wide of the far post.

Alvaro Fernandez had another bright night at left-back. He whipped in a ball across the six-yard box that evaded everyone. Facundo Pellistri was coming in at the near post but couldn’t quite reach it.

West Ham couldn’t get out of their own half. United’s defensive set up was compact with Galbraith sitting at the base of midfield.

United should have led after half-an-hour. Hannibal Mejbri shot first time as a pull-back came to his feet. Elanga was waiting a couple of yards behind him and would have scored. In the end, Mejbri’s shot was blocked and Elanga followed it up with another effort that Trott saved. Puigmal took control of the loose ball, beat two men on the edge of the box with great footwork and sent a shot whistling over the crossbar.

 

United go behind despite first-half dominance vs West Ham

Despite the constant pressure from United, West Ham took the lead, charging forward on the counter-attack and forcing Will Fish to poke the ball into his own net.

Shoretire tip-tapped his way through four players but was tackled in the area before he could get a shot away. It summed United’s half up. Attractive and entertaining but ultimately ineffective.

West Ham doubled their lead in the first minute after the second half. It was a penalty that shouldn’t have been given; a dive. Oladapo Afolayan converted it.

Ethan Laird managed 57 minutes before Joe Hugill replaced him in the search for a United goal. He did well.

When Pellistri was taken down in the area, the referee was more lenient. United’s players protested as he waved away their claims.

United not clinical enough in defeat to West Ham

Neil Wood’s side were not clinical enough though. Only two of their first 10 shots were on target. As the end neared, possession couldn’t be converted into chances.

Hannibal Mejbri was sent off with only minutes remaining. The Frenchman was in the middle of a tangle of legs by the corner flag. The referee clearly thought he’d kicked out at his opponent but replays showed nothing of serious note had happened. The red card was a third baffling decision of the night.

The result was ultimately decided by poor refereeing decisions. United’s performance was good enough.

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