Manchester United rose up to second place in the Premier League following a 1-0 victory over Champions League-chasing West Ham at Old Trafford, courtesy of a Craig Dawson own goal in the second half.
The home side had to wait until eight minutes into the second half to make a worthy breakthrough when Dawson headed Bruno Fernandes’ corner into his own net in a close and cagey match.
As a result, United overtook Leicester City, who had climbed to second place earlier in the day after a 5-0 home victory over Sheffield United, though they still 14 points behind league leaders Manchester City.
David Moyes, who returned to Old Trafford after a short stint as United boss, has his side in fifth place, three points behind Chelsea for the final Champions League berth, albeit with a game in hand on the Blues.
After Leicester’s resounding victory over struggling Sheffield United earlier in the day, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team began Sunday night’s clash with West Ham in third position in the league, but bolstered by the surprising return of Marcus Rashford in attack.
After injuring his ankle in United’s derby victory over City last weekend, the England international was not supposed to return to the starting lineup, but not only did he do so, but he also lost his team’s best opening of the first half.
News from the squad
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has recovered from an ankle injury. With the injury suffered against Manchester City last Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had predicted the forward would be out again, but he was able to start at Old Trafford. United also bring in Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, and Fred, with Dean Henderson holding his spot in goal amid the absence of David De Gea.
Meanwhile, West Ham captain Mark Noble made his Premier League debut in 2021, alongside Ben Johnson and Jarrod Bowen.
Mason Greenwood worked his way into space on the right side of the box before finding Rashford at the far post, only for the striker to scuff his close-range header wide of the target.
After a smooth United transfer involving Fernandes, who spotted the young forward in space just outside the box, Greenwood himself came close to opening the scoring eight minutes before the break.
Lukasz Fabianski, on the other hand, did a fantastic job of tipping Greenwood’s low strike, which was headed for the far corner, behind as the two teams went into halftime goalless.
Moyes, whose side had been extremely defensive in the first half, decided to go from three to four at the back in the second half to give the visitors an extra body in midfield, but it had no effect as United took the lead in strange fashion.
Dawson, who is known for his aerial prowess, rose to clear Fernandes’ inswinging corner from the left, only to head the ball into his own net, giving the hosts a justified lead.
United should have extended their lead in the final half-hour, but Fabianski saved Fernandes’ well-struck drive from the edge of the field, and Greenwood could only hit the outside of the post late on after being put through on target.
What Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said
Solskjær: “It’s about not giving them turnovers all the time. In the first 15 minutes we gave the ball away every time we attacked — you have to not open up stupidly as you know they [West Ham] are a threat on the counter-attack so we kept composed and organised.”
Solskjær: “We created massive opportunities but the final pass or shot wasn’t good enough. Could have been two or three easily. But then it could have ended up in our net at the end as they are a threat.”
Solskjær: “As expected, they [West Ham] are always going to make it hard for you. We could have been more comfortable towards the end as we had a few decent chances to finish it off. We like to make it hard for ourselves!”
Solskjær: “Big week – Europa League and FA Cup – so we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully get a few players back and put a good performance in.”
Solskjær: “We hope five of them will be back [against AC Milan]. David [De Gea] hopefully, Donny [Van de Beek], Edinson [Cavani], Paul [Pogba] maybe and Anthony [Martial] hopefully – yeah, he’s very likely to be back. Stronger squad to travel to Italy with.”
Solskjær: “He [Greenwood] deserved a goal he was excellent tonight. He’s getting there. He’s growing and maturing all the time.”
Solskjær: “We need to be more clinical – that helps me as well with my heart. Fortunately, we defended fantastically. Dean Henderson did not have a save to make and I guess that is a good sign.”