Manchester United were once again booed off against West Ham, but 21 shots on goal suggests Louis van Gaal’s side at least offered signs of improvement.
United went into the Premier League home clash against the Hammers with their brand of football under Van Gaal a hot topic of discussion.
While they had been keeping plenty of clean sheets, the Red Devils’ possession-based style had also delivered relatively few goals and been widely criticised as boring, with cries of “attack, attack, attack” being yelled at the team by some United supporters pining for the more dynamic displays of old.
Here, TEAMtalk assesses how Van Gaal’s men performed in the 0-0 draw with the Hammers.
Van Gaal selected a back four on this occasion having gone with a three-man defence against Leicester and – with debutant Guillermo Varela coming on in place of Paddy McNair midway through – another shut-out was successfully secured.
But United survived some major scares, particularly in the first half, with David de Gea saving well when Victor Moses was clean through, and West Ham striking the post twice in quick succession off the heads of Mauro Zarate and Winston Reid. Zarate then passed up a decent opportunity after the break, skewing his shot wide.
In the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney, Marouane Fellaini started in the number 10 position behind Anthony Martial, flanked on either side by Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata.
A promising start going forward, during which Fellaini made a nuisance of himself and Martial was only denied by a superb Reid block, faded as the first half went on, even though the hosts had the greater share of the ball.
United were then more on the front foot again for a lot of the second half, but they could not find a way through a determined West Ham backline. They had an impressive 21 shots at goal, but only one of them was on target.
A mixed bag during the match. At one point during the first half, West Ham fans interjected the more or less complete silence from their United counterparts by singing “this is The Emirates”, comparing the atmosphere with the oft-mocked one of Arsenal.
The calls for more attacking football from the United faithful also came and went at different stages – and there were loud boos at the final whistle.
Some encouraging moments for United, but the fact is that it was a fourth 0-0 draw in six home games in all competitions – so ultimately, more of the same.
It’s a popular narrative to have a go at United of late, and while the performance failed to yield a goal, there were far more positive moments to reflect on compared to other recent results. In truth – and while there’s still plenty of improvements required – the penetration, shape and tempo from United was much better – it’s just a shame there was little end product and some poor finishing in front of goal.
Supporters should also remember that this United side – while proving hard to beat and at least not showing the signs of vulnerability neighbours Manchester City had earlier shown at Stoke – are just three points off the summit and very much in the title chase.