“United, united”. The only united team at the London Stadium on Saturday were the hammers of West Ham. The red devils, or perhaps better described as light pinks, from Manchester were anything but. There were a rabble and a mess, completely disjointed in strategy and approach. They lacked leadership, spirit and fight and, for a club of such standing in world football, something of an embarrassment to their supporters both in the stadium and around the world. They were quite literally hammered and they deserved nothing more.
In marked contrast, the other united, in claret and blue, were a blur of movement, skill, hunger, appetite and desire. As the sun beamed down, this was arguably their finest hour in this stadium. Any more performances like this and the supporters may begin to like their new environment.
It has taken new boss Manuel Pellegrini a few games to find his feet and assess his squad yet, after a few teething problems when they could not win for toffee, they beat the toffees and have not looked back since.
The team has a balance about it, which was not evident at all in their esteemed visitors. West Ham’s rearguard looked reasonably solid all afternoon, aided by a quite brilliant save low down to his right by a rejuvenated Lukasz Fabianski from a Marouane Fellaini header when he simply had to score. In defence, Manchester United were all at sea, with the increasingly maligned and distant Jose Mourinho deciding to play Scott McTominay, a promising midfielder, firstly at right back and then at centre back. Incredulity all round and really not good for the young man’s confidence as he was cruelly exposed for West Ham’s third goal as Marko Arnautovic was given the whole of east London to stroll through and apply the coup de grace.
Yet it was arguably in midfield that West Ham really dominated. Skipper Mark Noble, a West Ham boy through and through, has to play every game for his club. He is the heartbeat of this team, he plays with passion and drives his fellow players on. He is full of energy and an inspiration. He was aided by the highly rated Declan Rice, deployed in a holding role just in front of the back four, and he hardly played a poor pass or missed a tackle all afternoon, a very mature performance belying his tender years. The Republic of Ireland or England ? The debate goes on, yet it is no wonder that Southgate and his cronies are showing increasing interest.
Then the je ne sais quoi. On the left Felipe Anderson, on the right Andriy Yarmolenko and through the middle, big Marko. All three buzzed with excitement and pzazz, clever flicks, twists and turns, wrecking havoc in the pink back five, or was it four, or three at times. All three scored, Anderson with a low volley, Yarmolenko with a lucky deflection and Arnautovic with a side footed finish when put clean through and this was no more than they deserved. They were terrific and this performance, following on from the three previous matches, bodes well for the future.
For Manchester United, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Ashley Young were chasing shadows all afternoon. Romelu Lukaku gave it his all but is not the finisher that he has been, Anthony Martial cannot finish full stop. They only improved as an attacking force when Marcus Rashford was introduced early in the second half and he halved the deficit with a neat low finish from a corner but, like so many of his colleagues, he cut a forlorn figure. All is not well at mill, the players look disinterested, there are no smiles, there is no fun and the manager appears increasingly isolated. This is not the Manchester United way. Jose has to go.